Biden signals Russia sanctions should be maintained even if Ukraine war ends

Warns of message China would take from sanctions lifted quickly

President Joe Biden and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida (not seen) hold a joint press conference at the Akasaka Palace state guest house in Tokyo, Japan on Monday. (Nicolas Datiche/Sipa Press / Pool/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
President Joe Biden and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida (not seen) hold a joint press conference at the Akasaka Palace state guest house in Tokyo, Japan on Monday. (Nicolas Datiche/Sipa Press / Pool/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
Posted May 23, 2022 at 9:31am

President Joe Biden said Monday that even if there's a "rapprochement" between Russia and Ukraine, the international sanctions imposed on Russia should not be lifted quickly.

Biden, speaking at a joint news conference with Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida Monday in Tokyo, asked rhetorically that if sanctions are lifted, "then what signal does that send to China about the cost of attempting, attempting to take Taiwan by force?"

Most of the headlines out of the U.S.-Japan press conference focused on Biden's responding "yes" when asked about whether he would be willing to respond militarily in defense of Taiwan.

"That's the commitment we made," Biden said, but he added that any attempt by the government on the mainland to use force to take control of Taiwan would be "just not appropriate."

After the president's remarks, a White House official made clear there was no change in U.S. policy being announced.

"As the President said, our policy has not changed. He reiterated our One China Policy and our commitment to peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait," the official said. "He also reiterated our commitment under the Taiwan Relations Act to provide Taiwan with the military means to defend itself."

In focusing some of his remarks Monday on Russian President Vladimir Putin, Biden was emphasizing how the durability of the world's response to Russia's invasion of Ukraine has more even more sweeping implications beyond Europe.

"I believe what Putin is attempting to do is eliminate the identity of Ukraine — the identity. He can't occupy it, but he can try to destroy its identity," Biden said. "He has to pay, and Russia has to pay a long-term price for that in terms of the sanctions that have been imposed."

The president has been spending several days traveling in Asia, starting with a series of meetings and events in South Korea before traveling onward to Japan. His trip concludes Tuesday with the second in-person Quad Leaders’ Summit with leaders from Japan, Australia and India, which is being hosted in Tokyo.