US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi confirmed on Sunday that she will visit four Asian countries this week, but made no mention of a possible stopover in Taiwan this has fueled tensions with Beijing, which claims island democracy as its own territory.
Pelosi said in a statement that she is leading a congressional delegation to Singapore, Malaysia, South Korea and Japan to discuss trade, the COVID-19 pandemic, climate change, security and “democratic governance”.
Pelosi has yet to confirm reports that she may be visiting Taiwan. Chinese President Xi Jinping has warned against interference in Beijing’s relations with the island during a phone call Thursday with his American counterpart, Joe Biden.
Beijing sees official US contact with Taiwan as encouragement to make its decades-old de facto independence permanent, a step US leaders say they do not support. Pelosi, head of one of the three branches of the US government, would be the highest elected US official to visit Taiwan since President Newt Gingrich in 1997.
The Biden administration did not explicitly urge Pelosi to avoid Taiwan, but tried to assure Beijing that there was no reason to “come to blows” and that if such a visit did occur, it would would not signal any change in US policy.
“Under President Biden’s strong leadership, America is firmly committed to intelligent strategic engagement in the region, understanding that a free and thriving Indo-Pacific is crucial to the prosperity of our country and the world,” said Pelosi.
Taiwan and China separated in 1949 after the communists won a civil war on the mainland. Both sides say they are one country but disagree on which government is entitled to national leadership. They have no official relations but are linked by billions of dollars in trade and investment.
The United States transferred diplomatic recognition from Taipei to Beijing in 1979, but maintains informal relations with the island. Washington is obligated by federal law to ensure that Taiwan has the means to defend itself.
Washington’s “one China policy” indicates that it takes no position on the status of the two sides but wants their dispute to be resolved peacefully. Beijing promotes an alternative “one China principle” that says they are one country and the Communist Party is its leader.
Members of Congress have publicly backed Pelosi’s interest in visiting Taiwan despite Chinese opposition. They want to avoid being seen as giving in to Beijing.
Beijing has given no details on how it might react if Pelosi travels to Taiwan, but the Defense Ministry warned last week that the military would take “strong measures to thwart any outside interference”. The Foreign Office said “those who play with fire will perish by it”.
The ruling party’s military wing, the People’s Liberation Army, has been flying increasing numbers of fighter jets and bombers around Taiwan to intimidate the island.
“The Air Force’s multi-type fighter jets are flying around the precious homeland island, tempering and enhancing the ability to maintain national sovereignty and territorial integrity,” the military spokesman said on Sunday. , Colonel Shen Jinke, referring to Taiwan.
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Pelosi said his delegation includes U.S. Representatives Gregory Meeks, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee; Mark Takano, Chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee; Suzan DelBene, vice chair of the House Ways and Means Committee; Raja Krishnamoorthi, member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence and chairman of the Subcommittee on Economic and Consumer Policy of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, and Andy Kim, member of the House Armed Services and Foreign Affairs Committees.
A visit to Taiwan would be a career cornerstone for Pelosi, who is increasingly using his position in Congress as an American envoy on the world stage. She has long challenged China on human rights and wanted to visit Taiwan earlier this year.
In 1991, as a new congressman, Pelosi angered Chinese authorities by unfurling a banner in Tiananmen Square in central Beijing commemorating those killed when the Communist Party crushed pro-democracy protests two years later. early.
“It’s important for us to show our support for Taiwan,” Pelosi, a California Democrat, told reporters this month.
But she had made it clear that she was not advocating policy changes in the United States.
“None of us ever said we were for independence when it comes to Taiwan,” she said. “It’s up to Taiwan to decide.”
On Friday, National Security Council spokesman John Kirby tried to allay concerns.
“There’s no reason for it to come to this, to come to blows,” Kirby said at the White House. “There is no reason for this as there has been no change in US policy regarding One China.”
Mascaro reported from Washington.