Biden stresses US 'does not support independence' for Taiwan as world leaders react to election win

World leaders congratulated Taiwan’s ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) for a historic third presidential term even as President Biden warned that the U.S. will not endorse independence for the island.

“We do not support independence,” Biden told reporters when asked for comment on DPP candidate William Lai’s victory over the rival Koumintang (KMT) party following Saturday’s election. 

Lai, who also goes by his Chinese name, Ching-te, declared victory after a tightly contested election saw him beat KMT candidate Hou Yu-ih, the mayor of New Taipei City. Beijing had not declared a clear preference for any candidate, but Chinese officials framed Lai as “dangerous.” 

In a statement, U.S. Secretary of State Atony Blinken posted on social media platform X congratulating Lai as well as “the Taiwan people for participating in free and fair elections and demonstrating the strength of their democratic system.” 

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DPP Candidate Lai Ching-te

Lai Ching-te (L) joins hands with the vice presidential candidate Hsiao Bi-khim during a campaign rally on January 11, 2024, in Taipei, Taiwan.  (Sawayasu Tsuji/Getty Images)

House members, including Indo-Pacific Subcommittee Chairwoman Young Kim, R-Calif., and Ranking Member Ami Bera, R-Calif., along with Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Mike McCaul, R-Texas, and Ranking Member Gregory Meeks, R-N.Y., issued congratulations to Lai and praised Taiwan for “another milestone.” 

“We condemn Beijing’s attempts to influence the elections through disinformation and military pressure and applaud the people of Taiwan for upholding democratic ideals,” the House members wrote in a statement. “We look forward to working with President-elect Lai and Vice President-elect Hsiao to enhance the U.S.-Taiwan economic, cultural, and defense relationship.”

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President Biden speaking

President Biden faced criticism on social media Wednesday over an apparent gaffe when he claimed that Russian President Vladimir Putin is currently “losing the war in Iraq.” (JIM WATSON/AFP via Getty Images)

British Foreign Minister David Cameron offered his “warm congratulations” to Lai and urged China and Taiwan to continue working on efforts to “resolve differences peacefully through constructive dialogue,” The Independent reported. 

“The elections today are a testament to Taiwan’s vibrant democracy,” Cameron said in his statement. 

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French press conference

French Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna and Britain’s Foreign Secretary David Cameron address the media during a press conference in Paris on December 19, 2023. Britain and France are reiterating their determination that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine must end in failure. (AP Photo/Christophe Ena)

Japan congratulated Taiwan for the “smooth implementation” of its presidential election, and Lai for his victory, promising to “work toward further deepening cooperation and exchanges between Japan and Taiwan, based on its position to maintain working relationship on the non-governmental basis.” 

“We expect that the issue surrounding Taiwan will be resolved peacefully through dialogue, thereby contributing to the peace and stability in the region,” the statement said. 

The Beijing Taiwan Affairs Office issued a harsh statement that claimed the DPP “cannot represent the mainstream public opinion on the island” and “will not impede the inevitable trend of China’s reunification.” 

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The European Union did not mention or directly congratulate Lai on his victory, simply referring to the need for “peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait” as “key to regional and global security and prosperity.” 

“The European Union welcomes the elections held in Taiwan on 13 January, and congratulates all the voters who participated in this democratic exercise,” the EU wrote in a statement released Saturday. 

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