US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi plans to meet with Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen on Wednesday in a controversial visit that has raised concerns about a possible military response from China.
Three people familiar with the situation said Pelosi would meet with Tsai in Taipei as part of a broader visit to Asia that began Sunday in Singapore.
Pelosi did not include Taiwan on her official itinerary, which includes Japan, South Korea and Malaysia, due to security concerns, but the Financial Times first reported that she would be the first female speaker to visit Taiwan in 25 years.
China has issued strong warnings to the Biden administration, including suggestions that the People’s Liberation Army could take action if the 82-year-old Democrat went ahead with her planned visit.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Monday urged China to act responsibly and “not engage in any escalation” if Pelosi visits Taiwan.
President Joe Biden sent senior officials, including national security adviser Jake Sullivan, to explain the risks to Pelosi, but people familiar with the situation said she had decided to go ahead with the historic trip.
Many Republicans, and a few Democrats, have urged Pelosi to proceed, arguing that any decision to postpone or cancel would be capitulating to China. But the White House worries it could trigger a crisis in the Taiwan Strait, where tensions have risen over the past year.
On Monday, China stepped up its threats. After the People’s Liberation Army conducted live-fire drills in Pingtan, an island in the Taiwan Strait, and other drills in the South China Sea last week, the Maritime Security Administration of the China said there would be more exercises from Tuesday to Saturday.
“The Chinese People’s Liberation Army will not sit down,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said Monday.
At the White House on Monday, National Security Council communications chief John Kirby said there was “no reason” for Beijing to turn a potential visit into a “pretext for increased aggressive military activity.”
“China appears to be positioning itself to take possible additional steps in the coming days,” Kirby said. “These potential steps . . . could include military provocations, such as firing missiles into the Taiwan Strait.”
Kirby repeatedly declined to confirm that Pelosi would visit Taiwan during a news conference, but said, “We’re going to be looking at it very, very closely. We’re going to make sure she has a safe visit.”
A long-time critic of China, particularly on human rights, Pelosi would be the most senior lawmaker to visit Taiwan since President Newt Gingrich went in 1997.
Beijing opposes all visits by US lawmakers to Taiwan, over which it claims sovereignty. But he is especially sensitive to Pelosi’s visit because she is second in line to the presidency after the vice president and belongs to the same party as Biden.
His visit also comes just months before the 20th Congress of the Chinese Communist Party, in which President Xi Jinping is expected to receive an unprecedented third term as leader.
Beijing has accused the US of watering down the “one China” policy, under which Washington recognizes Beijing as China’s sole government, although it acknowledges, but does not endorse, its position that Taiwan is part of the china
The US military has been prepared to protect Pelosi, who is flying in a US Air Force plane. Few experts believe that China would try to shoot down their plane, but Chinese fighter jets could try to intercept their plane. This could trigger a dangerous situation because the US military would be forced to step in to protect Pelosi and her delegation.
“If a decision is made that Speaker Pelosi or anyone else will travel and they request military support, we will do whatever is necessary to ensure the safety of their visit,” said Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs. last week in response to a question from the FT.
A senior Taiwanese official said that Taipei had not seen a marked increase in PLA activity over the past week, but that the Chinese military had stepped up its movements in Taiwan in the previous weeks.
“They have increased the pressure a lot recently,” said a second senior Taiwanese official. “They send a larger number of planes and ships and come closer.”
According to Taiwanese government data, on July 24 the PLA conducted three-sided joint air and sea maneuvers around Taiwan, including an attack drone and a destroyer off its east coast, an anti-submarine warfare aircraft and two fighter planes and a reconnaissance plane. fly a raid into the southwestern end of their “air defense identification zone.”
The day after those moves, some of which have not been made public, the Japanese military said another type of Chinese attack drone had flown between Yonaguni, a Japanese island off the east coast of Taiwan.
Data released by the Japanese military and Taiwan’s defense ministry also show that the PLA has intensified activity in Japan’s southernmost islands and Taiwan’s ADIZ since the second half of June.