Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi left on Friday for a tour of Asia that may include a controversial visit to Taiwan in a move that is increasing tensions between the US and China and is even threatening to spark a military conflict.
On Saturday, Hu Xijin, a commentator with the Chinese-state-owned Global Times, wrote, “If US fighter jets escort Pelosi’s plane into Taiwan, it is [an] invasion. The [People’s Liberation Army] has the right to forcibly dispel Pelosi’s plane and the US fighter jets, including firing warning shots and making tactical movement of obstruction.”
“If ineffective, then shoot them down,” Hu added, according to the New York Post.
Twitter blocked his account, and he subsequently removed the tweet but continued tweeting about Pelosi. One tweet included a map showing the route of Pelosi’s trip.
If Pelosi really visits Taiwan as planned, the Tsai Ing-wen authorities are accomplice. The mainland will definitely carry out severe punishment actions on Taiwan at the same time. The unbearable consequences will fall on Tsai authorities. https://t.co/HJKall7AiR
— Hu Xijin 胡锡进 (@HuXijin_GT) July 30, 2022
In a subsequent tweet, he wrote, “Where is Pelosi now, does anybody know? Some said that she will be going to Taiwan by a submarine instead, and others said that she has sneaked into Taiwan disguised as someone else, is that the case?”
The Chinese military added emphasis to the threats by holding live-fire exercises Saturday off its coast opposite Taiwan as the speaker was flying east.
In a Thursday phone call, President Xi Jinping warned President Joe Biden against “external interference” in Beijing’s dealings with the island.
Pelosi’s aides have not yet confirmed if the Speaker’s trip will include a visit to Taiwan.
“I don’t ever discuss my travel plans. It’s a matter of security,” Pelosi told reporters on Wednesday.
As speaker of the house, Pelosi is third in line for the presidency after President Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris.
National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said, “There’s no reason for it to come to that, to come to blows, to come to increased physical tension. There’s no reason for that because there’s been no change in American policy with respect to One China.”
The Associated Press reported Wednesday that the Pentagon is prepared to send fighter jets, surveillance assets, and warships to protect Pelosi if she visits Taiwan. Citing unnamed US officials, AP reported that the Department of Defense had been developing security plans to keep Pelosi safe should her trip to Taiwan in August go ahead.
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.
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 planned to visit Taiwan in April, but the trip was postponed after she contracted COVID.
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.
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.