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Biden: US military opposes Nancy Pelosi visit to Taiwan

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President Biden said the US military is not supporting House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) who is visiting Taiwan this summer.

Leaving Air Force One late on Wednesday, Biden was asked about the possibility of a Pelosi trip, which has not been confirmed by the State Department or its office.

Biden said “the military don’t think it’s a good idea right now,” but noted he wasn’t sure “what’s its status.”

China’s foreign ministry lashed out on Tuesday after media reports that as part of a wider tour of Asia in August, Pelosi planned to visit the democratic island claimed by Beijing.

China says it will take ‘strong measures’ if Pelosi visits Taiwan

During her weekly press conference Thursday, Pelosi, who is second in line to the presidency, said she never discusses her travel plans because it is a matter of national security.

“You never even hear me say if I’m going to London because it’s a security issue,” she told reporters. Earlier this week, her office said it would not confirm or deny international travel “in advance due to lengthy security protocols.”

The Financial Times first reported news of Pelosi’s trip, stating that she would visit Singapore, Japan, Indonesia and Malaysia.

Pressured by a reporter about Biden’s comments, Pelosi said, “I think the president said maybe the military was afraid our plane would be shot down or something like that by the Chinese. I do not know exactly. I did not see it. I didn’t hear it. You tell me, and I’ve heard it anecdotally,” she said.

Pelosi had planned to lead a congressional delegation to Taiwan in April but postponed her trip after contracting the coronavirus. A visit this summer would make her one of the most senior American politicians to have traveled to Taiwan in recent years and the first Speaker of the House to go there since Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) did in 1997.

State Department spokesman Ned Price this week said the trip has not been announced and remains “hypothetical”.

Biden also told reporters he expects to speak to Chinese President Xi Jinping “within the next 10 days.” He was hesitant to raise the issue of tariffs and trade with the leader of the world’s second-largest economy amid soaring inflation in the United States.

Relations between China and the US remain tense – and Taiwan is a sensitive issue.

“If the United States insists on going ahead, China will have to take firm and firm measures to defend national sovereignty and territorial integrity,” China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said on Tuesday. Such a trip would cause “serious damage,” he added, and “seriously impact the political foundations of China-US relations.”

Pelosi, who has criticized China for its stance on Taiwan, virtually met Taiwanese Vice President William Lai Ching-te in January while he was in the United States. He thanked Pelosi for standing up for human rights and called her a “true friend” of Taiwan.

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Beijing claims Taiwan as its own and has pledged to achieve what it calls ‘reunification’, threatening to use force if necessary to take control of the self-ruled island. The United States has walked a thin line for decades, not taking a stance on the status of Taiwan’s sovereignty, but repeatedly claiming it is against unilateral change of the status quo.

During his first trip to Asia as president in May, Biden signaled a more confrontational approach to China and warned strongly against any potential attack on Taiwan.

When asked whether the United States would militarily defend Taiwan if it is attacked by Beijing, Biden said, “Yes, that’s the commitment we made.” His comment marked a departure from the usual US policy of strategic ambiguity on the subject and was then quickly backed away by aides and criticized by Beijing.

Taiwan has been under military threat from Beijing since communist forces defeated the Nationalists in the Chinese Civil War in 1949, prompting the Nationalists to flee to Taiwan and form a rival government.

Christian Shepherd and Missy Khamvongsa contributed to this report.

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