Covid-19 pandemic is over, says Biden

US president says US forces would support Taiwan if it faced ‘an unprecedented attack’ by China

The Covid-19 pandemic is over, US president Joe Biden has said.

Speaking in an interview on US television on Sunday night he said there was still a problem with Covid and there was still a lot of work going on in relation to it.

“But the pandemic is over. If you notice, no one is wearing masks. Everybody seems to be in good shape. And so I think it is changing,” Mr Biden said in an interview on the 60 Minutes programme on CBS.

Mr Biden also said that he intended to run again for the White House in 2024 but that he had not made a final decision.

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“Look, my intention, as I said, is that I would run again. But it is just an intention. But is it a firm decision that I run again? That remains to be seen.”

He said he was a “great respecter of fate” and it was far too early for a decision on running for a second term.

In his interview Mr Biden also said that US forces would support Taiwan if it faced “an unprecedented attack” by China.

Asked to clarify on the programme if he meant that, unlike in Ukraine, US forces would defend Taiwan in the event of a Chinese invasion, Mr Biden replied: “Yes.”

Later the White House said that US policy towards Taiwan had not changed.

“The president has said this before, including in Tokyo earlier this year. He also made clear then that our Taiwan policy hasn’t changed. That remains true,” the White House said.

The US has long stuck to a policy of not making clear whether it would respond militarily to an attack on Taiwan.

In the 60 Minutes interview, Mr Biden reiterated that the US did not support Taiwanese independence and remained committed to a “one-China” policy in which Washington officially recognises Beijing, not Taipei.

The Chinese foreign ministry said on Monday that China has lodged “stern representations” with US over Mr Biden’s comments.

China reserves the right to take all necessary measures in response to activities that split the nation apart, said Mao Ning, spokesperson at the foreign ministry, at a regular media briefing. “We are willing to do our best to strive for peaceful reunification. At the same time, we will not tolerate any activities aimed at secession,” Mao said.

She also urged the US to handle Taiwan-related issues “carefully and properly”, and not send “wrong signals” to Taiwan independence separatist forces, warning the United States not to seriously damage Sino-US relations and the peace in the Taiwan Strait.

“There is only one China in the world, Taiwan is part of China, and the government of the People’s Republic of China is the only legitimate government of China,” said Mao.

Taiwan’s foreign ministry on Monday expressed “sincere gratitude” to Mr Biden for “affirming the US government’s rock-solid promise of security to Taiwan”.

Mr Biden also described as “totally irresponsible” the retention by former president Donald Trump of classified top secret documents at his residence and club in Florida after he left the White House.

Mr Biden said he had not received any advance notice of the raid by the FBI on Mr Trump’s home, Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach in August. He said he was keeping out of the current investigation into how the classified material came to be stored at Mr Trump’s residence.

“I have not personally spoken to anyone on that — in that regard. I’m sure my administration is aware of all of that, and so is the national security council. But I have not,” Mr Biden said.

Asked what he thought when he saw the photograph of classified material seized at Mar-a-Lago laid out on a floor, the president said: “How that could possibly happen. How one — anyone — could be that irresponsible,” Mr Biden said. “And I thought, what data was in there that may compromise sources and methods? By that I mean names of people who helped ... And it’s just totally irresponsible.”

“I have not asked for the specifics of those documents because I don’t want to get myself in the middle of whether or not the justice department should move or not move on certain actions they could take.” — Additional reporting: Reuters

Martin Wall

Martin Wall

Martin Wall is Washington Correspondent of The Irish Times. He was previously industry correspondent