Though her office has yet to confirm, it is rumored that the Democratic Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, plans to visit Taiwan in August. If true, her trip would be held at a time when China is heightening its threats and intimidation.
Last week, China’s Foreign Ministry vowed to respond to such a trip to Taiwan with “resolute and forceful measures.”
“We are seriously prepared,” spokesman Zhao Lijian told reporters at a regular briefing on Monday. “If the U.S. side is bent on going its own way, China will take strong measures to resolutely respond and counteract.”
“If the US insists on going down the wrong path, China will definitely take resolute and forceful measures to firmly defend its national sovereignty and territorial integrity,” ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian told a news conference. “The United States must be fully responsible for all the consequences caused by this.”
“China demands the US take concrete actions to fulfill its commitment not to support ‘Taiwan independence’ and not to arrange for Pelosi to visit Taiwan,” Ministry of Defense Spokesperson Tan Kefei said Tuesday in response to questions over Pelosi’s reported trip to Taipei.
“If the US insists on taking its own course, the Chinese military will never sit idly by, and it will definitely take strong actions to thwart any external force’s interference and separatist’s schemes for ‘Taiwan independence,’ and resolutely defend national sovereignty and territorial integrity,” Tan added.
A report by the Financial Times cited six people familiar with the Chinese as saying the rhetoric was significantly stronger than in the past, suggesting a possible military response.
President Biden has not told Pelosi to cancel her trip but has tried to discourage her.
“I think that the military thinks it’s not a good idea right now, but I don’t know what the status of it is,” Biden told reporters on Wednesday, saying that he plans to speak with Chinese President Xi Jinping by the end of the month.
Biden officials told CNN that they were concerned China would declare a no-fly zone over Taiwan to prevent Pelosi’s visit.
Pelosi has been a vocal critic of China throughout her career. In 1991, two years after protests in Tiananmen Square were violently suppressed by the communist government, Pelosi visited the site with two other US politicians, unfurling a small banner that said in English and Chinese, “To Those Who Died for Democracy in China.” An international incident was narrowly averted as policemen attempted to arrest the three US lawmakers.
This current episode comes as China has increased incursions by warplanes into Taiwan’s airspace.
If the visit does take place, it would be the highest-level delegation from the United States to Taiwan since Republican House Speaker Newt Gingrich traveled to Taiwan in 1997. Pelosi had planned on visiting Taiwan in April, but the trip was postponed after she contracted COVID.
There have been more than 20 visits by US officials and lawmakers since President Trump signed the Taiwan Travel Act, allowing such visits by high-level officials.
The Chinese Communist Party has claimed Taiwan as part of its territory and has repeatedly vowed to “reunify” with the island of 24 million people by force if necessary. China has never governed Taiwan though it refuses diplomatic relations with countries that recognize Taiwan’s sovereignty. After the United States established diplomatic relations with the Beijing government, or People’s Republic of China (PRC), under the Communist Party of China’s rule as “China” in 1979, Taiwan–United States relations became unofficial and informal in a policy referred to as “strategic ambiguity.”Washington is committed to providing Taiwan with the means to defend itself and continues to be the leading provider of arms to Taiwan, which is often a source of tension with the PRC.