US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is expected to visit Taiwan as part of her tour of Asia, according to a senior Taiwanese government official and a US official. This is despite warnings from Biden administration officials, who are worried about how China will react to such a high-profile visit.
The stop, which will be the first for a US House speaker in 25 years, is not on Pelosi’s public schedule and comes at a bad time for relations between the US and China.
The Taiwanese official also said that she is likely to spend the night there. No one knows for sure when Pelosi will arrive in Taipei.
The US official also said that Defense Department workers are working around the clock to keep an eye on any moves the Chinese make in the area and come up with a plan to keep her safe.
Pelosi’s first official stop on her Asia tour was in Singapore on Monday, where she met with the country’s president, prime minister, and other top leaders.
Malaysia’s state media, Bernama, reported on Tuesday that Pelosi and a group of congresspeople had arrived in the country and were going to meet with the prime minister and parliament speaker.
On the delegation’s schedule are stops in South Korea and Japan, but there has been no official word about a trip to Taiwan.
During a regular foreign ministry briefing on Monday, China warned about the “egregious political impact” of Pelosi’s planned visit to the self-governing island that China claims as part of its territory. China also said that its military “won’t sit by idly” if Beijing thinks its “sovereignty and territorial integrity” are being threatened.
“We want to remind the US that China is ready to help and that the Chinese People’s Liberation Army will never stand by and do nothing. China will respond firmly and take strong steps to protect its sovereignty and territorial integrity “When reporters asked what would happen if Pelosi led a congressional delegation to Taipei, Zhao Lijian, a spokesman for the Foreign Ministry, said this.
“Let’s see what measures she takes if she dares to go,” Zhao said.
Even though Taiwan wasn’t mentioned, China’s military said in a video posted online Monday that it would “bury incoming enemies.” The People’s Liberation Army’s Eastern Theater Command was showing off its weapons and fighting techniques. A message on Weibo said, “Stand firm and be ready for the fighting command; bury all approaching enemies.”
Secretary of State Antony Blinken said, “We don’t know what Speaker Pelosi plans to do,” reiterating the administration’s position that it is up to Pelosi to decide whether or not to visit.
“Congress is an independent, equal branch of government,” Blinken told the United Nations on Monday afternoon. “The Speaker alone makes the choice.”
Blinken said that this kind of visit has happened before, because other speakers and members of Congress have been to Taiwan.
“If the speaker does decide to go, and China tries to make a crisis or make things worse in some other way, that would be all on Beijing,” Blinken said. “If she decides to visit, we want them to be responsible and not do anything that could make things worse in the future.”
John Kirby, who is in charge of strategic communications for the National Security Council, said earlier on Monday that the Biden administration will back Pelosi on her trip to Taiwan.
“We want to make sure that she can travel abroad safely and securely, and we’re going to make that happen. There is no point to what the Chinese are saying. There is no reason to take any action. “It’s not unusual for members of Congress to go to Taiwan,” Kirby told Brianna Keilar of CNN on “New Day.”
“We shouldn’t let that talk or those possible actions scare us as a country. The speaker is going on a very important trip, and we will do everything we can to help her “Kirby went on. When asked if the US was ready for repercussions from the visit with China, Kirby said that “The way we do things won’t change. We won’t change how much we try to keep the Indo-Pacific free, safe, and open.”
Taiwan is still one of the most controversial things. On Thursday, as tensions between Washington and Beijing grew, President Joe Biden and his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, talked on the phone for two hours and seventeen minutes about it
At the Aspen Security Forum in July, Chinese Ambassador to the US Qin Gang said, “The question of Taiwan is the most sensitive and important core issue in China-US relations. Two sources say that while Biden has said in public that the US military did not think it was a good time for Pelosi to visit Taiwan, he has not told her not to go.
In the past few weeks, the House speaker has been briefed by the Pentagon and other administration officials about the risks of visiting the democratic, self-governing island with 24 million people. But Biden didn’t think it was his place to tell her she shouldn’t go, and since his first statement on July 21, he hasn’t talked about her trip in public.
Biden said last month that the US military didn’t want Pelosi to go to Taiwan, but he hasn’t said anything more about the warnings since then. The White House has said that it’s up to the speaker of the House to decide where she goes.
Still, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said not long ago that he and Pelosi had talked about a trip to Asia.
Since Pelosi is next in line to be president, the administration pays extra attention to her safety when she travels abroad.
Administration officials are worried that Pelosi’s trip comes at a very tense time, since Xi is expected to try for a third term at the next Chinese Communist Party congress, which has never happened before. In the coming weeks, Chinese party officials will likely start making plans for that conference. This will put pressure on the leaders in Beijing to show strength.
Officials also think that the Chinese leadership doesn’t fully understand how politics work in the U.S., which could lead to a misunderstanding about how important Pelosi’s possible visit is. The officials say that since Pelosi and Biden are both Democrats, China might think that Pelosi’s visit is a visit from the government. Officials in the administration are worried that China doesn’t put much distance between Pelosi and Biden, if any.
Pelosi has been against the Chinese Communist Party for a long time. She has met with pro-democracy dissidents and the Dalai Lama, the spiritual leader of Tibet who lives in exile and continues to be a problem for the Chinese government. In 1991, Pelosi put up a black-and-white banner in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square that said, “To those who died for democracy” to honour the people who died in the 1989 massacre. In the past few years, she has spoken out in favour of the Hong Kong protests for democracy.
The Chinese embassy in the US doesn’t like her planned trip, which was supposed to take place in April before Pelosi tested positive for Covid-19. They have asked members of Congress to tell the speaker not to go on the trip.
Rep. Rick Larsen, a Democrat from Washington and co-chair of Congress’ US-China working group, told CNN that the Chinese embassy has been trying hard to stop people from going to Taiwan. “I just don’t think they have any right to tell us what to do. That was my response.”
The spokesperson for the Chinese Embassy in the US, Liu Pengyu, said that his office is “regularly in touch” with Larsen and other members of Congress.
“We have made our position on Taiwan clear and loud,” Pengyu said. “The Embassy is doing everything it can to make sure that a possible visit to Taiwan by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi doesn’t hurt the peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait or the stability of US-China relations.
“We hope that big problems can be avoided,” he said. “This is good for both China and the United States.”
HFX recognizes Nancy Pelosi's bravery and supports her efforts to visit Taiwan 💪https://t.co/sHDKpbnSIf
— Halifax The Forum (@HFXforum) August 1, 2022
A lot of Democrats and Republicans in Congress said it was fine for Pelosi to go to Taiwan.
Rep. Darin LaHood, a Republican from Illinois and Larsen’s Republican counterpart on the US-China working group, said, “Speaker Pelosi is the only one who can decide whether or not to go to Taiwan. No other country can.” “In our democratic system, we have different but equal parts of government that work together.”
“It is wrong for foreign governments, including the Chinese government, to try to affect the speaker, members of Congress, or other US government officials’ ability or right to travel to Taiwan or anywhere else in the world,” he said.
Other members seemed to be more cautious about the trip, which was important for international relations. Judy Chu is the first Chinese American woman to be elected to Congress. She is a Democrat from California and said she has “always supported Taiwan.”
But when asked if a trip to Taiwan now would be a bad idea, Chu said, “There are two ways to look at it. One is that right now the relationships are very tense. On the other hand, you could say that maybe Taiwan needs to see strength and support at that time.”
When asked what she thought, she said, “I’ll leave that up to those who will decide.”
On Monday, more information was added to this story.