President Joe Biden on Sunday issued stark warnings to China and Russia and expressed optimism about the US economy’s recovery, but surprised many by hedging whether he would seek re-election.
In a rare, wide-ranging interview with the CBS “60 Minutes” program, Biden came back to repeated claims from the White House that he would definitely run in 2024.
Biden, who turns 80 in November, told interviewer Scott Pelley that re-election was his “intent.” “But is it a firm decision that I run again? That remains to be seen,” he said.
“It’s way too early,” Biden said, calling himself “a great respect for fate.”
Looking at the state of the world’s largest economy, Biden was optimistic.
He declared the Covid-19 pandemic “over” in the United States and predicted his administration will tame inflation — the main reason for his weak approval ratings and the reason Republicans believe they will rise in the upcoming midterms in the US November to take control of Congress.
“We will get inflation under control,” he said.
Troops to Taiwan?
In another surprising moment, Biden appeared to once again challenge decades of US policy toward Taiwan with a vow that he would send troops to defend the self-governing island should China attempt an invasion.
“Yes,” he said, adding that this would happen if there were “an unprecedented attack” – possibly referring to something beyond the frequent saber-rattling carried out by Chinese forces across Taiwan.
Under US policy known as “strategic ambiguity,” Washington recognizes Chinese sovereignty but resists any vigorous attempt to end Taiwan’s de facto self-government.
As Washington arms Taiwan, there has been no clear promise of direct US military support.
The White House said Biden’s recent comments did not indicate a change.
After the interview, Taiwan’s foreign ministry expressed its “sincere gratitude” for Biden’s support.
“In the face of China’s military expansion and provocative actions, our government will further strengthen self-defense capabilities to resolutely resist the expansion and aggression of authoritarianism, while deepening the close security partnership between Taiwan and the United States,” the ministry said in a statement.
In another harsh message to the United States’ biggest economic and geopolitical rival, Biden said he had warned President Xi Jinping not to provide military support to Russia in its invasion of Ukraine.
He said he told Xi that US and other foreign investments in China would be disrupted and that it would be “a gigantic mistake” to think otherwise.
He also said that if Russian President Vladimir Putin uses nuclear or other non-conventional weapons against Ukraine, the US response will be “consistent”.
When asked what he would say to Putin if the Russian leader considered such a move, he said: “Don’t do it. Not. Not.”
Biden praised the Ukrainians for their tough fight against the huge Russian invasion, saying “they are defeating Russia”.
When asked how to define victory for Kyiv, he said: “Winning the war in Ukraine means getting Russia completely out of Ukraine.”
But given the level of human suffering and destruction inflicted in resisting the Russian onslaught, “it’s awfully hard to count as a victory,” he added.
“More to Give”
Despite his poor ratings and polls showing Democrats are likely to lose control of at least one chamber of Congress, Biden said he was optimistic.
Noting that employment is booming and the economy is strong, Biden said, “We’re hoping that, as they say, we can have a soft landing.”
Whether he was physically and mentally able to continue the grueling job at his age, Biden said: “Watch me”.
“It’s about that old expression – ‘The proof of the pudding is in the eating’.”
When asked about his source of inspiration during difficult times, Biden mentioned his son Beau, who died in 2015, but also his parents’ admonition to “just stand up.”
Biden said he has “a lot more to give.”