Speaker of the United States House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi was due to kick off a tour of four Asian countries in Singapore on Monday amid intense speculation that she could risk Beijing’s wrath by also visiting Taiwan, the self-governing island claimed by China.
On Sunday, Pelosi’s office announced that she was leading a congressional delegation to the region that would include visits to Singapore, Malaysia, South Korea and Japan. It didn’t do
mention of Taiwan.
China sees visits by US officials to Taiwan as an encouraging signal for the island’s pro-independence camp. Washington has no official diplomatic relations with Taiwan.
but is required by law to provide the island with the means to defend itself.
A visit by Pelosi, third in line to the presidency and a longtime critic of China, would come amid deteriorating ties between Washington and Beijing. Republican Newt Gingrich was the last Speaker of the House to visit Taiwan, in 1997.
In a phone call last Thursday, Chinese President Xi Jinping warned his American counterpart Joe Biden that Washington
should abide by the one-China principle and “those who play with fire shall perish”.
Biden told Xi that US policy on Taiwan has not changed and that Washington strongly opposes unilateral efforts to alter the status quo or undermine peace and stability around the world.
On Monday, Taiwanese Prime Minister Su Tseng-chang did not directly respond when asked if Pelosi would visit on Thursday, as local media speculated.
“We always warmly welcome visits to our country from distinguished foreign guests,” he told reporters in Taipei.
Pelosi was due to arrive in Singapore on Monday for a two-day visit, CNA television reported, citing the country’s foreign ministry. The American Chamber of Commerce in Singapore was due to host a reception with her on Monday afternoon, its website said.
On Sunday, Chinese Air Force spokesman Shen Jinke was quoted by state media as saying that Beijing would “resolutely safeguard national sovereignty and territorial integrity”.
Shen told a military airshow that the Air Force has many types of fighter jets capable of circling “the precious island of our homeland”, in reference to Taiwan.
Beijing considers Taiwan to be part of its territory and has never renounced the use of force to bring the island under its control.
Pelosi’s Asian tour comes at a politically sensitive time for Chinese and American leaders.
Xi is expected to win a third term at the helm of a previous one later this year at a congress of the ruling Communist Party, which will be held once every five years. In the United States, Biden’s Democratic Party faces a tough fight to retain control of the House of Representatives in November’s midterm elections.
Last Wednesday, Biden told reporters he believed the U.S. military believed a visit by Pelosi to Taiwan was “not a good idea right now.”
Read more: US House Speaker Pelosi to visit four Asian countries, not mentioning Taiwan