A White House official has suggested that Beijing may further escalate tensions over Nancy Pelosi’s possible visit to Taiwan
President Joe Biden’s administration has warned that China is poised to stoke geopolitical tensions around Taiwan, perhaps through military “provocations,” raising the risk of an unintended escalation in Beijing’s row with Washington over US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s possible visit to the self-governing island.
“China appears to be positioning itself to potentially take further steps in the coming days and perhaps over longer time horizons,”John Kirby spoke on Monday for the US National Security Council. “These potential steps from China could include military provocations, such as firing missiles in the Taiwan Strait or around Taiwan, operations that break historical norms such as large-scale air entry into Taiwan’s air defense identification zone . . . air or naval activities that cross the median line and military exercises that could be highly publicized.”
Kirby made his comments after Reuters, CNN, and other media outlets reported that Pelosi would visit Taiwan, in defiance of China’s warnings of a possible military response. According to reports, the California Democrat will arrive in Taipei Tuesday as part of a five-stop tour through Asia-Pacific which began this weekend.
Beijing has repeatedly warned that such a visit would damage its relations with Washington and violate the US’ ‘One China’ policy of acknowledging the mainland’s claim of sovereignty over Taiwan, which it views as a breakaway province. Kirby repeatedly emphasized that Biden’s administration had no control over Pelosi’s possible visit, given that Congress is an independent branch of government, and that her trip wouldn’t reflect any change in US policy.
“The speaker has the right to visit Taiwan, and the speaker of the House has visited Taiwan without incident,”Kirby referred to Newt Gingrich’s 1997 visit, He said, “Nothing has changed about our One China policy … We have said that we do not support Taiwan independence, and we have said that we expect cross-strait differences to be resolved by peaceful means.”
Kirby stated that Biden reiterated this position when he spoke to Xi Jinping by phone. “There is no reason for Beijing to turn a potential visit consistent with longstanding US policy into some sort of crisis or conflict, or use it as a pretext to increase aggressive military activity in or around the Taiwan Strait.”
He stated that China would not take further actions to profit from the Pelosi scandal. “concerning trend lines that we’ve seen in recent years, but some could be of a different scope and scale.”
Ironic that the White House has criticized Chinese provocations is because Beijing repeatedly accuses the US of provocative interference in Taiwan and other parts of the world. An American Navy strike team, headed by an aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan, might be moving toward Chinese waters, according to Chinese reports.
Asked whether Pelosi’s trip could put her or the Taiwanese people at risk, Kirby said the US would “make sure that she has a safe and secure visit.” He said that while Washington doesn’t expect a direct attack, Chinese threats and provocations could trigger a conflict.
“It does increase the risk of miscalculation, which could lead to unintended consequences,”Kirby stated. He said, “We and countries around the world believe escalation serves no one. Beijing’s actions could have unintended consequences that only serve to increase tensions. Our actions don’t pose any threat and do not create new tensions.
READ MORE Is Nancy Pelosi’s trip to Taiwan a sign of war between China, the US and each other?
“Nothing about this potential visit . . . The PRC could change the status quo and should be rejected by the rest of the world. We won’t take their bait or participate in saber-rattling. However, we won’t be intimidated. We will keep operating in the seas and the skies of the Western Pacific as we have for decades.”