Tensions during Pelosi Taiwan visit ‘would be entirely on Beijing,’ says US
White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said the administration was concerned that Beijing could use Pelosi's Taiwan visit as an excuse to take provocative retaliatory steps.
The White House on Monday decried China's rhetoric over the anticipated visit of Speaker Nancy Pelosi to Taiwan, asserting that the United States "will not take the bait or engage in saber rattling" and has no interest in increasing tensions with Beijing.
Pelosi's potential visit to Taiwan has put China – which regards Taiwan as its own territory – on alert, leading it to warn the US of “serious consequences" if such a trip goes ahead. The Biden administration pushed back on Beijing as Pelosi held talks with officials in Singapore on Monday at the start of her Asian tour. “The Speaker (Nancy Pelosi) will make her own decisions about whether or not to visit Taiwan... If the speaker does decide to visit, and China tries to create some kind of crisis, or otherwise escalate tensions, that would be entirely on Beijing,” said US Secretary of State Antony Blinken.
White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby also underscored that the decision on whether to visit the self-ruled island that China claims as its own was ultimately Pelosi's and that members of Congress have routinely visited Taiwan over the years.
“Put simply, there is no reason for Beijing to turn a potential visit consistent with long-standing U.S. policy into some sort of crisis or use it as a pretext to increase aggressive military activity in or around the Taiwan Strait,” Kirby said.
Kirby said administration officials are concerned that Beijing could use the visit as an excuse to take provocative retaliatory steps, including firing missiles in the Taiwan Strait or around Taiwan, flying sorties into Taiwan's airspace and carrying out large-scale naval exercises in the strait.
“We expect to see Beijing continue to use inflammatory rhetoric and disinformation in the coming days… The United States, by contrast, will act with transparency,” he added.
While there have been no official announcements from the White House, local media in Taiwan reported that Pelosi will arrive Tuesday night, making her the highest-ranking elected US official to visit the island in more than 25 years.
Pelosi's visit to Asia is expected to include Singapore, Malaysia, South Korea and Japan in a tour to discuss trade, the Covid-19 pandemic, climate change, security and “democratic governance.”
On Thursday, Pelosi is to meet with South Korean National Assembly Speaker Kim Jin Pyo in Seoul for talks on security in the Indo-Pacific region, economic cooperation and the climate crisis, Kim’s office said in a statement.
Pelosi’s schedule for Wednesday remained unclear and there were no details on when she will head to Japan.
China's warning over Pelosi's visit
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian reacted to these reports saying, “If Pelosi insists on visiting Taiwan, China will take resolute and strong measures to defend its sovereignty and territorial integrity.”
“Those who play with fire will perish by it,” Zhao said. “We would like to once again admonish the U.S. that we are fully prepared for any eventuality and the PLA (People's Liberation Army) will never sit idly by.”
China’s UN Ambassador Zhang Jun termed the potential visit “provocative” reminding the US of the ‘One China principle’ which is a “red line” and “we allow no one to cross this red line.”
“So, if we do not take appropriate, forceful action to stop it, and the situation might even be out of control,” Zhang said.
Beijing sees official American contact with Taiwan as encouragement to make the island's decades-old de facto independence permanent, a step US leaders say they don’t support. Pelosi, head of one of three branches of the US government, would be the highest-ranking elected American official to visit Taiwan since then-Speaker Newt Gingrich in 1997.
Chinese President Xi Jinping also warned the US against meddling in Beijing’s dealings with the island in a phone call last week with President Joe Biden.