Nancy Pelosi Confirms Trip to Asia, But No Mention of Taiwan

BEIJNG — The speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, confirmed Sunday she will visit four Asian countries this week but made no mention of a possible stop in Taiwan that has fueled tension with Beijing, which claims the island democracy as its own territory.

Pelosi said in a statement 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 is yet to comment on news reports that Pelosi might be visiting Taiwan. Chinese President Xi Jinping warned against meddling in Beijing’s dealings with the island in a phone call Thursday with his American counterpart, Joe Biden.

Beijing sees official American contact with Taiwan as encouragement to make its decades-old de facto independence permanent, a step U.S. leaders say they don’t support. Pelosi is the head of one the three U.S. governments branches. He would be the highest ranking elected American official to have visited Taiwan since Newt Gingrich, the then-Speaker, in 1997.

The Biden administration didn’t explicitly urge Pelosi to avoid Taiwan but tried to assure Beijing there was no reason to “come to blows” and that if such a visit occurred, it would signal no change in U.S. policy.

“Under the strong leadership of President Biden, America is firmly committed to smart, strategic engagement in the region, understanding that a free and flourishing Indo-Pacific is crucial to prosperity in our nation and around the globe,” Pelosi’s statement said.

In 1949, Taiwan and China were divided by communists who won civil war against the mainland. Although they claim to be one country, the two sides disagree on who is allowed to lead their respective national governments. Although they do not have official relations, their trade and investment connections are worth billions of dollars.

Although the United States moved diplomatic recognition of Taipei to Beijing from 1979, they maintain informal relations with the island. Washington has a federal obligation to make sure Taiwan can defend itself.

Washington’s “One China policy” says it takes no position on the status of the two sides but wants their dispute resolved peacefully. Beijing promotes an alternative “One China principle” that says they are one country and the Communist Party is its leader.

Members of Congress publicly backed Pelosi’s interest in visiting Taiwan despite Chinese opposition. They don’t want to be seen to yield to Beijing.

Beijing has given no details of how it might react if Pelosi goes to Taiwan, but the Ministry of Defense warned last week the military would take “strong measures to thwart any external interference.” The foreign ministry said, “those who play with fire will perish by it.”

The ruling party’s military wing, the People’s Liberation Army, has flown growing numbers of fighter planes and bombers around Taiwan to intimidate the island.

“The Air Force’s multi-type fighter jets fly around the treasured island of the motherland, 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 U.S. Reps. Gregory Meeks, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee; Mark Takano, chairman of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs; Suzan DelBene, vice chair of the House Ways and Means Committee; Raja Krishnamoorthi, a member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence and chair of the Subcommittee on Economic and Consumer Policy of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, and Andy Kim, a member of the House Armed Services and Foreign Affairs Committees.

Pelosi’s career highlight would be Taiwan, as she increasingly makes use of her role in Congress to serve the U.S. diplomatic mission on the international stage. Since China has been a long-standing challenge to human rights in China, she had hoped to visit Taiwan this year.

Pelosi was a freshman member of Congress and unveiled a banner in Tiananmen Square to commemorate those killed by the Communist Party during pro-democracy protests.

“It’s important for us to show support for Taiwan,” Pelosi, a Democrat from California, told reporters this month.

She made it clear that she wasn’t advocating U.S. policy change.

“None of us has ever said we’re for independence, when it comes to Taiwan,” she said. “That’s up to Taiwan to decide.”

John Kirby, spokesperson for the National Security Council tried to calm concerns on Friday.

“There’s no reason for it to come to that, to come to blows,” Kirby said at the White House. “There’s no reason for that because there’s been no change in American policy with respect to One China.”

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