BEIJING — China will take “resolute and strong measures” should the Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi proceed with reported plans to visit Taiwan, the Chinese Foreign Ministry said Tuesday.
According to reports in The Financial Times, Pelosi is the second-in line for the presidency and will visit China’s self-governing islands in August.
She had originally been scheduled for April visit, but was forced to cancel after being positive for COVID-19.
Pelosi will be the most high-ranking American lawmaker who visits the close ally of the United States since Newt Gingrich (her predecessor as speaker) went there 25 years back.
China is vowing to annexe Taiwan forcefully if needed. It has made public threats by operating warplanes in Taiwanese skies and by holding exercises that simulate invasion scenarios. It says those actions are aimed at deterring advocates of the island’s formal independence and foreign allies – principally the U.S. – from coming to its aid, more than 70 years after the sides split amid civil war.
A visit by Pelosi would “severely undermine China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, gravely impact the foundation of China-U.S. relations and send a seriously wrong signal to Taiwan independence forces,” Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijiang said at a daily briefing.
“If the U.S. were to insist on going down the wrong path, China will take resolute and strong measures to safeguard its sovereignty and territorial integrity,” Zhao said.
White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre declined to comment on Pelosi’s expected visit to Taiwan. Jean-Pierre said the United States’ support for Taiwan remained “rock solid,” while reiterating the U.S. longstanding commitment to the “One China” policy that recognizes Beijing as the government of China but allows informal relations and defense ties with Taipei.
China in recent days has also ratcheted up its rhetoric over U.S. arms sales to Taiwan, demanding the cancellation of a deal worth approximately $108 million that would boost its armed forces’ chances of survival against its much bigger foe. China has the world’s largest standing military, with an increasingly sophisticated navy and a huge inventory of missiles pointed across the 180 kilometer (100 mile) -wide Taiwan Strait.
“The Chinese People’s Liberation Army … will resolutely thwart any form of interference by external forces and separatist plots of ‘Taiwan independence,’” the Defense Ministry said in a statement posted on its website Tuesday.
While Washington maintains a policy of “strategic ambiguity” over whether it would defend Taiwan in a conflict with China, U.S. law requires it must ensure the island has the means to defend itself and consider threats to its security as matters of “grave concern.”
Washington maintains only unofficial relations with Taiwan in deference to Beijing, but is the island’s strongest political ally and source of defensive arms.
Zhao gave no details about what potential actions China might take in response to Pelosi’s visit, but Beijing has generally used military flights and war games to indicate its discontent. Chinese pilots are also being accused of using lasers to attack foreign warships, as well as aggressively targeting surveillance aircraft belonging to the U.S.
China’s most serious threat against Taiwan came in 1995-96, when it held military exercises and lobbed missiles into waters north and south of the island in response to a visit to the U.S. by then-President Lee Teng-hui.
Here are more must-read stories from TIME