BEIJNG — U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi confirmed Sunday that she will visit four Asian countries this week, but made no mention of a possible stopover in Taiwan that has fueled tension with Beijing, which claims island democracy. as its own territory. .
Pelosi said in a statement that she is leading a congressional delegation to Singapore, Malaysia, South Korea and Japan to discuss trade, the COVID-19 pandemic, climate change, security and “democratic governance.”
Pelosi has yet to confirm news reports that she might visit Taiwan. Chinese President Xi Jinping warned against meddling in Beijing’s dealings with the island in a phone call Thursday with his US counterpart Joe Biden.
Beijing sees official US contact with Taiwan as encouragement to make its decades-old de facto independence permanent, a move US leaders say they do not support. Pelosi, head of one of the three branches of the US government, would be the highest-ranking elected US official to visit Taiwan since then-President Newt Gingrich in 1997.
The Biden administration did not explicitly urge Pelosi to avoid Taiwan, but tried to assure Beijing that there was no reason to “come to blows” and that if such a visit did occur, it would not signal any change in US policy.
“Under the strong leadership of President Biden, the United States is firmly committed to smart and strategic engagement in the region, understanding that a free and flourishing Indo-Pacific is crucial to prosperity in our nation and around the world,” Pelosi said. it’s a statement.
Taiwan and China split in 1949 after the communists won a civil war on the mainland. Both sides say they are one country, but disagree on which government has the right to national leadership. They have no official relations, but are linked by billions of dollars in trade and investment.
The United States switched diplomatic recognition from Taipei to Beijing in 1979, but maintains informal relations with the island. Washington is required by federal law to see that Taiwan has the means to defend itself.
Washington’s “one China policy” says it takes no position on the status of the two sides, but wants their dispute to be resolved peacefully. Beijing promotes an alternative “one China principle” that says they are one country and the Communist Party is their leader.
Members of Congress publicly endorsed Pelosi’s interest in visiting Taiwan despite Chinese opposition. They want to avoid being seen as caving in to Beijing.
Beijing has not given details of how it might react if Pelosi goes to Taiwan, but the Defense Ministry warned last week that the military would take “strong measures to thwart any outside interference.” The Foreign Office said that “those who play with fire will perish by it.”
The ruling party’s military wing, the People’s Liberation Army, has flown an increasing number of fighter jets and bombers around Taiwan to intimidate the island.
“The Air Force’s multi-type fighter jets fly around the treasured homeland island, tempering and enhancing the ability to maintain national sovereignty and territorial integrity,” military spokesman Col. Shen Jinke said on Sunday, referring to Taiwan. .
Pelosi said her delegation includes US Representatives Gregory Meeks, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee; Mark Takano, Chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee; Suzan DelBene, Vice Chair of the House Ways and Means Committee; Raja Krishnamoorthi, member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence and chairman of the Subcommittee on Economic and Consumer Policy of the House Oversight and Reform Committee, and Andy Kim, member of the House Foreign Affairs and Armed Services Committees .
A visit to Taiwan would be the culmination of a career for Pelosi, who increasingly uses her position in Congress as an emissary for the United States on the world stage. He has long challenged China on human rights issues and wanted to visit Taiwan earlier this year.
In 1991, as a new member of Congress, Pelosi angered Chinese authorities by unfurling a banner in central Beijing’s Tiananmen Square commemorating those killed when the Communist Party crushed pro-democracy protests two years earlier.
“It’s important for us to show our support for Taiwan,” Pelosi, a California Democrat, told reporters this month.
But he had made it clear that he was not advocating changes in US policy.
“None of us have ever said that we are pro-independence, when it comes to Taiwan,” he said. “That’s up to Taiwan to decide.”
On Friday, National Security Council spokesman John Kirby tried to quell concerns.
“There’s no point in coming to that, coming to blows,” Kirby said at the White House. “There is no reason for that because there has been no change in US policy regarding One China.”