Media reports indicated U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi will depart with a delegation of lawmakers on her trip to Asia late Friday, but whether she plans to go through with a controversial visit to Taiwan is unclear.
During a briefing Friday, Pelosi, as she has repeatedly done in recent days, refused to discuss a departure date for her trip, citing security concerns. But she said the trip was significant because U.S. President Joe Biden had emphasized the Asia-Pacific region in his foreign policy and Congress had a role to play in that.
Since the possible visit to Taiwan was mentioned earlier this month as part of the speaker’s August Asian tour, China has reacted strongly, warning the U.S. government against it.
Taiwan has long been a point of tension in the U.S.-China relationship. China claims the island democracy as part of its territory. While the U.S. nominally has a “one China” policy that recognizes both Taiwan and China as part of the same country, it maintains “strategic ambiguity” in its relations with them.
Since taking office, Biden has suggested several times that the U.S. would defend Taiwan militarily if China attempted to retake the island by force, appearing to deviate from the U.S. tradition of not definitively stating how it would respond to Chinese aggression against Taiwan.
Taiwan was a primary point of discussion during a phone call Thursday between Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping. China’s Foreign Ministry, in a readout of the call, quoted Xi as telling Biden, in reference to the planned trip, “Those who play with fire will perish by it.”
China issued a similar warning Friday during a discussion about Ukraine in a meeting of the U.N. Security Council. China’s Deputy U.N. Ambassador Geng Shuang said that while the U.S. has declared its support for Ukraine’s sovereignty, “it has incessantly challenged the sovereignty of China over Taiwan.”
“China is resolute and firm as rock in its will to safeguard national sovereignty. No one should underestimate the determination and ability of more than 1.4 billion Chinese people to defend its national sovereignty and territorial integrity,” Geng said, also warning the U.S. not to “play with fire.”
Pelosi has been a critic of China’s social policies for many years. When asked about her upcoming Asia trip last week, she said, “It’s important for us to show support for Taiwan. None of us has ever said we’re for independence when it comes to Taiwan. That’s up to Taiwan to decide.”
The Associated Press reported that Taiwan leaders this week said they would welcome a visit from Pelosi. In comments Wednesday, Taiwan Premier Su Tseng-chang said, “We are very grateful to Speaker Pelosi, who has been very supportive and friendly to Taiwan for many years, and we would welcome any friendly foreign guest to visit.”
If she decides to stop there, Pelosi would be the first sitting U.S. House speaker to visit Taiwan since Newt Gingrich went there in 1997. The speaker’s trip includes stops in Japan, South Korea, Malaysia and Singapore — all U.S. allies in the region.
Some information for this report came from The Associated Press.