asia

US Speaker Nancy Pelosi to Make Taiwan Stop on Asia Tour Despite China's 'She Dare …


After US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi kicked off her Asia tour on Monday, which has been shrouded in secrecy, Taiwanese media reported that she was set to visit the island nation despite warnings from China. A media report in the Liberty Times cited unidentified sources stating that Pelosi was scheduled to visit Taiwan’s parliament on Wednesday morning.

China has repeatedly warned the United States that its military will never “sit idly by” if Pelosi were to visit the self-ruled island claimed by Beijing. The speaker, who is second in line to the presidency, began her Asia tour from Singapore amid worsening ties between Washington DC and Beijing.

Taiwan’s foreign ministry said it had no comment on reports of Pelosi’s travel plans. Amid speculation about her impending trip to Taiwan, Pelosi’s office said on Sunday that she was leading a congressional delegation for her visits to Singapore, Malaysia, South Korea and Japan. The communication made no mention of Taiwan.

Earlier on Monday, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said it will be “a gross interference in China’s internal affairs” if Pelosi visited Taiwan, and warned that it will lead to “very serious developments and consequences.”

“We would like to tell the United States once again that China is standing by, the Chinese People’s Liberation Army will never sit idly by, and China will take resolute responses and strong countermeasures to defend its sovereignty and territorial integrity,” Zhao told a regular daily briefing.

Asked what kind of measures the PLA might take, Zhao said: “If she dares to go, then let us wait and see.”

Last week, US president Joe Biden had said the US military believed a Pelosi visit to Taiwan was “not a good idea right now.” On Monday CNN, citing a Taiwanese official and a US official, both unidentified, said Pelosi was expected to land in Taiwan in the coming days and stay overnight.

While US officials frequently visit Taiwan, Pelosi’s visit will be significant as she has been a long-time critic of China. Beijing feels that US visits to the self-ruled nation is an encouraging signal to the pro-independence camp on the island. Washington does not have official diplomatic ties with Taiwan but is bound by US law to provide the island with the means to defend itself.

Republican Newt Gingrich was the last House speaker to visit Taiwan in 1997. A video by the PLA’s Eastern Theater Command, which showed scenes of military exercises and preparations and was posted on state media sites on Monday evening, urged troops to “stand by in battle formation, be ready to fight upon command, bury all incoming enemies.”

The White House dismissed China’s rhetoric as groundless and inappropriate. “It is not uncommon for congressional leaders to travel to Taiwan,” National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said in an interview with CNN early Monday. “We shouldn’t be, as a country, we shouldn’t be intimidated by that rhetoric, or those potential actions. This is an important trip for the Speaker to be on and we’re going to do whatever we can to support her.”

BIDEN-XI CALL

During a phone call last Thursday, Chinese President Xi Jinping warned Biden that Washington should abide by the one-China principle and “those who play with fire will perish by it”. Biden told Xi that US policy on Taiwan had not changed and that Washington strongly opposes unilateral efforts to change the status quo or undermine peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait.

On Monday, Taiwan Premier Su Tseng-chang did not directly respond when asked whether Pelosi will visit on Thursday, as local media have speculated. “We always warmly welcome visits to our country by distinguished foreign guests,” he told reporters in Taipei.

Shi Yinhong, an international relations professor at Renmin University in Beijing, said if Pelosi visited Taiwan it will prompt the strongest counter-measures by Beijing in years, but he did not expect that to trigger major military conflict.

“China has reiterated in no ambiguous terms its opposition to Taiwan separatism. The US has reiterated many times its one-China policy has not changed and that it is against any change to the status quo by either side of the Taiwan Strait,” he said. “Unless by accident, I am sure neither side would intentionally take military action that could lead to a major security risk.”

SINGAPORE VISIT

Pelosi and her delegation met with Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, discussing issues including cross-strait relations, the Ukraine war and climate change, Singapore’s foreign ministry said. “PM Lee highlighted the importance of stable US-China relations for regional peace and security,” it said.

Beijing considers Taiwan to be part of its territory and has never renounced using force to bring the island under its control. Taiwan rejects China’s sovereignty claims and says only its people can decide the island’s future.

(With agency inputs)

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