Speaker Nancy Pelosi Visits Taiwan, Ignoring Chinese Threats and Biden’s Concerns

WASHINGTON – House Speaker Nancy Pelosi landed in Taiwan on Tuesday, a much-anticipated visit that came amid increasingly stern warnings of Chinese retaliation and escalating tensions between Washington and Beijing.

Pelosi, who was wearing a face mask, got off the plane around 10:50 PM local time and posed for photos with a contingent of Taiwanese officials who greeted her on the tarmac.

In a statement, the California Democrat noted that her visit marked the first official trip to Taiwan by a US House speaker in 25 years.

“Our congressional delegation’s visit to Taiwan is a tribute to America’s unwavering commitment to support Taiwan’s vibrant democracy,” Pelosi said in the statement. “America’s solidarity with Taiwan’s 23 million people is more important today than ever as the world faces a choice between autocracy and democracy.”

Pelosi, who has? a long track record with Beijing on his human rights record, is the most senior US official to visit the self-governing island in 25 years.

Pelosi’s office declined to confirm the trip in advance, citing security protocols, but her travel plans leaked amid rampant speculation about the ramifications of such a visit.

Taiwan’s tallest building, Taipei 101, was lit with welcome messages for the speaker. “Welcome to TW,” one message said. “Thanks,” read another.

Last month, President Joe Biden told reporters that “the military thinks it’s not a good idea right now” for Pelosi to make the trip. Some in Washington have expressed concern that China could respond with aggression towards Taiwan.

“The response will almost certainly contain a military component,” M. Taylor Fravel, director of the Security Studies Program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, wrote in a thread on Twitter. He said China is likely to put on a “display of strength”, possibly including live fire drills and an increased military presence in the Taiwan Strait, along with economic and diplomatic actions against the island.

Reuters, citing an unnamed source, reported Tuesday that several Chinese warplanes flew close to the median line dividing the Taiwan Strait on Tuesday morning and that several Chinese warships have sailed near the line since Monday.

China considers Taiwan part of its territory, while Taiwan sees itself as a sovereign country. The US has long embraced a dark middle ground that aims to support Taiwan without enraging Beijing.

A resident walks past a man reading a newspaper reporting the US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's visit to Asia at a booth in Beijing, Sunday, July 31, 2022.

A resident walks past a man reading a newspaper reporting the US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Asia at a booth in Beijing, Sunday, July 31, 2022.

Pelosi, White House: Visit won’t change US policy on Taiwan

Pelosi noted that her visit was one of many congressional delegations to Taiwan and said that “it in no way contradicts long-standing United States policies.”

White House officials also made that point, stressing that Pelosi’s trip does not change the US stance on Taiwan and saying there is no reason for the visit to cause any escalation.

“Nothing about this potential visit would change the status quo, and the world would reject any (Chinese) attempt to use it,” said John Kirby, the National Security Council’s coordinator for strategic communications at the White House. “We will not take the bait or engage in saber rattling.”

Kirby noted that other members of Congress have visited Taiwan before, including earlier this year. Former Speaker Newt Gingrich, R-Ga., was the last House leader to visit in 1997.

“We have said repeatedly that we are against any unilateral change of the status quo from either side, we have said that we do not support Taiwan’s independence, and we have said that we expect the strait disagreements to be resolved by peaceful means. be resolved,” Kirby said. said.

Supporters hold a banner outside the hotel where US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is said to be staying in Taipei, Taiwan, Tuesday, August 2, 2022. US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is said to be on his way to Taiwan on Tuesday during a visit that could significantly escalate tensions with Beijing, which claims the self-ruled island as its own territory.

Supporters hold a banner outside the hotel where US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is said to be staying in Taipei, Taiwan, Tuesday, August 2, 2022. US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is said to be on his way to Taiwan on Tuesday during a visit that could significantly escalate tensions with Beijing, which claims the self-ruled island as its own territory.

China’s Threats

Despite the government’s insistence that the visit will not change US policy, China has threatened repercussions on Pelosi’s visit.

Chinese President Xi Jinping directly warned Biden about the issue during a lengthy phone call on July 28 between the two leaders.

“Those who play with fire will die,” the Chinese leader said, according to the official record of the Beijing meeting. “It is hoped that the US will be clear about this. The US must respect the One China principle,” the Chinese government statement said.

On Monday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said the Chinese military “will not stand idly by” should Pelosi visit Taiwan. Lijian previously said such a trip would “challenge China’s red line” and “come with resolute countermeasures.”

“A visit from her to Taiwan would be gross interference in China’s internal affairs, seriously undermine China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, willfully trample on the One China principle, seriously threaten the peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait, seriously undermine relations between China and the US and lead to a very serious situation and serious consequences,” Lijian said on Monday.

National Security Council spokesman John Kirby speaks during a press conference at the White House on Tuesday, July 19, 2022, in Washington.  (AP Photo/Evan Vucci) ORG XMIT: DCEV101

National Security Council spokesman John Kirby speaks during a press conference at the White House on Tuesday, July 19, 2022, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci) ORG XMIT: DCEV101

US officials have called such comments escalating.

“This kind of rhetoric just escalates tensions in a totally unnecessary way,” Kirby said last week.

Pelosi’s Asia trip

Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan comes as part of a conference delegation to Singapore, Malaysia, South Korea and Japan.

Democratic delegates Gregory Meeks from New York, Mark Takano from California, Suzan DelBene from Washington, Raja Krishnamoorthi from Illinois and Andy Kim from New Jersey traveled with Pelosi.

The California Democrat also invited several Republican members of Congress to travel with her to Taiwan, according to a source familiar with the discussions and one of the GOP lawmakers, but none of the GOP members attended.

Republican “Rep. (Michael) McCaul was invited to the trip but cannot attend due to a prior commitment,” Leslie Shedd, a spokesperson for the House Foreign Affairs Committee rankings member, said in a statement to USA TODAY.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., and Senate Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said before the trip that if Pelosi did not attend, it would be a win for China. McCarthy said he would lead a two-pronged trip to Taiwan himself if he becomes a speaker after November’s midterm elections.

Contributors: Deirdre Shesgreen, Francesca Chambers, Katie Wadington

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Nancy Pelosi visits Taiwan despite China’s warnings and Biden’s concerns

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