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Biden administration works behind the scenes to convince Pelosi of the risks of traveling to Taiwan

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The potential trip highlights concerns within President Joe Biden’s administration over China’s plans for Taiwan, as Beijing has stepped up its rhetoric and aggressive actions against the island in recent months, including sending fighter jets multiple times to Taiwan’s self-declared air defense identification zone. . US officials have expressed concern that these moves could herald even more aggressive moves by China in the coming months to assert its authority over the island.

The war in Ukraine has only exacerbated those concerns, as Biden and other top officials look nervous to see what lessons China can draw from the Western response to Russian aggression.

Government officials have shared concerns not only about Pelosi’s safety during the trip, but also how China might respond to such a high-profile visit. With China recently reporting its worst economic performance in two years, Xi is in a politically sensitive place ahead of an important meeting to extend his government and could use a political victory, multiple officials told CNN.

While Biden’s aides have ideas about how he might respond, they’re not sure which direction the Chinese leader will take.

It is against that very charged background that Pelosi has proposed to visit Taiwan with a congressional delegation, a trip she has so far refused to confirm publicly. But that didn’t stop China from lashing out and saying a visit would violate US policy towards the island.

China’s Ministry of National Defense said on Tuesday that Pelosi’s trip must be canceled and warned that the Chinese military “would resolutely defend national sovereignty” if faced with “external forces” encouraging Taiwanese independence.

“China is demanding that the US take concrete steps to honor its commitment not to support ‘Taiwan independence’ and not to pay Pelosi a visit to Taiwan,” Defense Ministry spokesman Tan Kefei said on Tuesday. answer questions about Pelosi’s reported trip to Taipei.

“If the US insists on going its own way, the Chinese military will never stand idly by, and it will certainly take strong measures to thwart the interference of outside forces and separatists’ plans for ‘independence of Taiwan’, and resolutely defend national sovereignty and territorial integrity,” Tan added.

Because Pelosi is in the presidential line of succession, the administration is taking extra care of her safety when she travels abroad, the White House said Tuesday.

That includes establishing a footprint on the ground based on location and environment, sometimes using military means, said John Kirby, the communications coordinator at the National Security Council.

“We take those commitments seriously,” Kirby said, though reiterating that Pelosi has not announced any travel plans to visit Taiwan.

Administration explains the risks to Pelosi. from

Behind the scenes, Biden’s government officials detailed the potential risks of a visit during meetings with Pelosi and her team.

Pentagon officials briefed the speaker last week about Taiwan and the heightened tensions in the region, according to people familiar with the matter. White House officials also attended the briefing.

The president said last week that the US military opposed Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan, but the White House has declined to comment on his comments. Even Pelosi said at a news conference last week that she wasn’t quite sure what Biden meant.

“I think the president said maybe the military was afraid my plane would be shot down or something. I don’t know exactly,” she said.

The White House said Tuesday it was providing Pelosi with information about her potential trip.

“I’ll let the speaker talk about her travel plans. Our job, of course, is to make sure she has all the context and information before going anywhere. But that kind of rhetoric coming from the Chinese side is obviously useless and unnecessary.” Kirby said on CNN’s “New Day.”

“There’s no reason for that kind of escalating rhetoric,” Kirby added. “Again, none of this has to turn into a conflict. Nothing has changed in our policy regarding One China or supporting Taiwan’s ability to defend itself. So there’s no reason for this to escalate, not even in rhetoric.”

Potential trip comes at tense time in China

Government officials worry that Pelosi’s journey comes at a particularly tense time as Xi is expected to run for an unprecedented third term at the upcoming Chinese Communist Party Congress. Chinese party officials are expected to begin laying the groundwork for that conference in the coming weeks, putting pressure on leaders in Beijing to show strength.

Officials also believe that the Chinese leadership does not fully understand political dynamics in the United States, leading to a misunderstanding of the significance of Pelosi’s potential visit. The officials say China may mistake Pelosi’s visit for an official government visit, as she and Biden are both Democrats. Government officials are concerned that China does not separate Pelosi much, if at all, from Biden.

Instead, the politics surrounding the possible trip have been somewhat reversed. A number of Republicans have encouraged Pelosi to go ahead with her plans, arguing it would be a strong stance against China, including former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

“Nancy, I’m coming with you. I am exiled in China, but not freedom-loving Taiwan. See you there!’ Pompeo tweeted this week.

Pelosi has long cultivated a tough attitude towards China. She issued a strong statement in June on the anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre, reminding everyone that two years after the massacre, she helped unfold a banner that read: “To those who died for democracy in China. “

Biden seeks stability

Biden, who has tried to stabilize ties with China through regular talks with his counterpart, is planning a phone call with Xi this week that will likely address the Taiwan issue.

He last spoke with Xi in March, when he tried to convince the Chinese leader not to support Russia in its invasion of Ukraine. Officials have been closely monitoring Beijing’s response to the invasion, hoping that the largely unified Western response — including a scathing series of economic sanctions and billions of dollars in arms shipments — will prove enlightening as China considers its actions against Taiwan.

On Tuesday, Kirby indicated that China is observing the global response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine as it plots next steps in Taiwan, saying, “I’m sure they’re watching this in real time,” but there was “no reason to talk about this.” to bear in any form of conflict.”

US officials believe there is a small risk that China would miscalculate in responding to a visit to Pelosi. Biden administration officials are concerned that China could attempt to declare a no-fly zone over Taiwan ahead of a possible visit as an attempt to end the trip, potentially further escalating tensions in the region, a spokesperson said. US official to CNN.

That remains a slim possibility, officials said. More likely, they say, is the possibility that China will further ramp up flights to Taiwan’s self-declared air defense zone, which could spark renewed discussions about possible responses from Taiwan and the US, the US official added. They did not specify what those possible answers would entail.

While the government does not intend, nor does it intend to officially tell the speaker not to travel to Taiwan, officials in the briefings have been candid about the risks involved in traveling. People familiar with the matter say their hope is to quietly convince Pelosi of the risks of the trip without explicitly telling her not to go.

Ultimately, the speaker will make her own decision, Biden officials noted.

Kylie Atwood, Barbara Starr, Betsy Klein, Yong Xiong and Hannah Ritchie of CNN contributed to this report.

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