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Tuesday, November 29, 2022

Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan could cause ‘serious damage’, China warns

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China’s foreign ministry lashed out on Tuesday after reports that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) is planning a trip to Taiwan in August, saying it firmly opposes a visit.

Pelosi had planned to lead a congressional delegation to Taiwan, the democratic island claimed by Beijing, in April, but postponed her trip to Asia after contracting the coronavirus.

A visit this summer would make Pelosi one of the most senior U.S. politicians to have traveled to Taiwan in recent years and the first Speaker of the House to go there since Rep. Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) in 1997.

Pelosi’s office told The Washington Post on Tuesday, “We do not confirm or deny international travel in advance because of long-standing security protocols.” The Financial Times first reported news of Pelosi’s trip, stating that she would also visit Singapore, Japan, Indonesia and Malaysia.

“If the United States insists on going ahead, China will have to take firm and firm measures to defend national sovereignty and territorial integrity,” said Zhao Lijian, a spokesman for China’s foreign ministry.

Such a trip would “seriously damage China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity,” he added, and “seriously affect the political foundations of China-US relations.”

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Taiwanese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Joanne Ou said her agency had not received any information regarding reports of Pelosi’s visit.

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.

Shortly after Russia invaded Ukraine, President Biden sent an unofficial delegation of former US defense and national security officials to Taiwan in March in an effort to demonstrate that the United States’ commitment to Taiwan remained “rock solid”.

The European war and superpower invasion of its neighbor has particularly resonated in Asia, with Taiwan taking steps to bolster its military preparedness against any attack from China as Beijing tightened its rhetoric about Taipei in recent months.

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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 were attacked by Beijing, Biden said, “Yes, that’s the commitment we made.”

His comment marked a departure from usual US policy of remaining vague on the subject and was then quickly backed away by aides and criticized by Beijing. The United States has long had a policy of strategic ambiguity about the amount of US aid, making it deliberately unclear what it would do when it comes to defending Taiwan.

Zhao told reporters at a news conference on Tuesday that Congress, as part of the US administration, must adhere to the one-China policy, citing the United States’ long-standing stance that recognizes Beijing’s claim that there is only one China is, with the understanding that Taiwan’s fate will not be decided by force.

An outspoken critic of China, Pelosi virtually met Taiwan’s Vice President William Lai Ching-te in January while he was in the United States. He thanked her for standing up for human rights and called her a “true friend” of Taiwan.

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.

In recent years, Beijing and Washington have had an increasingly fraught relationship over issues such as trade, human rights violations in Xinjiang, China’s claims to the South China Sea and Hong Kong’s autonomy.

China’s Defense Minister General Wei Fenghe called Washington a “bully” in June and pledged to “fight to the end” to take over Taiwan if a confrontation is forced, sparking a war of words with the United States.

Lily Kuo, Amy B Wang and Bryan Pietsch contributed to this report.

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