President Joe Biden participates in a CNN town hall session in Baltimore on Thursday. AP
The United States will defend Taiwan if China attacks it, President Joe Biden said, prompting a warning from Beijing on Friday that its determination to take back the democratic island should not be underestimated.
Authoritarian China regards self-ruled Taiwan as its own territory and has vowed to one day seize the island, by force if needed.
Earlier, the White House on Friday reiterated that Joe Biden was not signaling a change in US policy toward Taiwan.
While Washington is required by law to provide Taiwan with the means to defend itself, it has long followed a policy of "strategic ambiguity" on whether it would intervene militarily to protect Taiwan in the event of a Chinese attack.
Meanwhile, North Korea on Saturday accused the Biden administration of raising military tensions with China through its "reckless” backing of Taiwan, and said that the growing US military presence in the region constitutes a potential threat to the North.
In comments carried by state media, North Korea Vice Foreign Minister Pak Myong Ho criticised the United States for sending warships through the Taiwan Strait and providing Taiwan with upgraded weapons systems and military training.
Asked at a Friday news briefing whether it was Biden's intention to move away from strategic ambiguity to make an unambiguous statement about how the United States would respond to a Chinese attack on Taiwan, White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki said: "Our policy has not changed. He was not intending to convey a change in policy, nor has he made a decision to change our policy."
A Chinese PLA J-16 fighter jet flies to an undisclosed location. File/AP
The United States’ "indiscreet meddling” in issues regarding Taiwan, which the North sees as entirely a Chinese internal affair, threatens to touch off a "delicate situation on the Korean Peninsula.”
"The US government has demonstrated, through actual actions, their rock solid support for Taiwan," Presidential Office spokesperson Xavier Chang said in a statement.
But Beijing warned that Biden's comments risked "damaging Sino-US relations," warning Washington on Friday to "act and speak cautiously on the Taiwan issue."
Legend-class US Coast Guard National Security Cutter Munro transits the Taiwan Strait. File/AP
"China has no room for compromise on issues involving its core interests," foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said at a regular press briefing.
China has ramped up economic, diplomatic and military pressure on Taiwan since the 2016 election of President Tsai Ing-wen, who views Taiwan as already sovereign and not part of "one China."
Military pressure has escalated in the last year with China sending waves of fighter jets and nuclear-capable bombers into Taiwan's air defense zone.
According to an AFP tally, more than 800 flights have been made into the zone since September last year -- 170 just this month.
Defending Taiwan, one of Asia's most progressive democracies, has become a rare bipartisan issue in Washington's otherwise deeply polarised landscape.
Chinese President Xi Jinping attends a meeting. File photo
At Thursday's live town hall, Biden was also asked by an audience member whether the United States would be able to keep up with China's rapid military development.
Biden responded with "Yes."
"Don't worry about whether... they're going to be more powerful," he said. "China, Russia and the rest of the world knows we have the most powerful military in the history of the world."
But Biden expressed concern that rival countries may "engage in activities where they may make a serious mistake."
He referred to his longtime relationship with Chinese President Xi Jinping and repeated his position that he does not want "to start a new Cold War with China."
But he warned: "I just want to make China understand that we are not going to step back."
Biden's comments also come in the wake of a Financial Times report that China has tested a state-of-the-art hypersonic missile with nuclear capacity that flew around the planet before landing, albeit not on target.
The first-of-its-kind gathering is a test of President Biden's assertion, announced in his first foreign policy address in office in February, that he would return the United States to global leadership to face down authoritarian forces led by China and Russia.
The US military said it sent two Navy warships through the Taiwan Strait on Sunday as the Pentagon increases the frequency of movement through the strategic waterway despite opposition from China.
Taiwan’s export orders contracted for an eighth straight month in June, with global companies increasingly hesitant to make new investments in machinery as the China-US trade war wears on.
The move comes as part of President Khalifa’s keenness to give pardoned inmates an opportunity to start a new life and ease the suffering of their families. The prisoners — sentenced for various crimes — will also have their debts and fines paid-off.
Hassan's audio speech broadcast on state television — his first address to the nation since the Taliban seized power in August — came ahead of next week's meeting between the United States and the Taliban in Doha.
Emergency medical services workers initially checked him out before being sent to a hospital for evaluation, the agency said. His condition was not released.