The United States is not required to defend Taiwan if Beijing launches a war against the island, according to Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage.

He made the comments in a TV interview aired Monday. His remarks were seen as Washington’s latest attempt to stop the island from leaning toward a move for independence from Communist China.

Armitage described Taiwan as the biggest landmine in Sino-U.S. relations.

Asked whether the U.S. would defend Taiwan in the event of an attack, Armitage said: “We have the requirement with the Taiwan Relations Act to keep sufficient force in the Pacific to be able to deter attack; we are not required to defend. And these are questions that actually reside with the U.S. Congress, which has to declare an act of war.”

Armitage stressed that there was only one China and that Taiwan was part of it.

Joseph Wu Jau-shieh, chairman of Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council, downplayed Armitage’s comments, saying he did not think they signaled a reversal of Washington’s policy.

Wu admitted the U.S. had no obligation to send troops to Taiwan under the Taiwan Relations Act.

“But it does have the obligation to supply defensive arms to Taiwan,” he said.

The opposition Kuomintang’s Chang Yung-kung, who was formerly the party’s China affairs director, said the remarks were a warning that the ruling Democratic Progressive Party should abandon its independence moves.

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