WASHINGTON (AP) — House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s announced plans to travel to Taiwan have upended Washington’s political divide, with a rift with President Joe Biden over the visit to the self-governing island while d Prominent Republicans are cheering on a political opponent they normally despise.
Pelosi’s supporters include a conservative Republican senator, at least two former Trump administration officials and the latest House speaker to make the trip to Taiwan, also a Republican. They urge Biden to support the trip even as China threatens a strong response if she leaves.
Pelosi, D-California, has not publicly confirmed the trip. The White House and the president’s office have yet to challenge each other directly, and Biden hasn’t said publicly that Pelosi shouldn’t go.
Biden has made China’s growing influence central of his foreign policy philosophy, but the Biden-China relationship is complicated and he has sought to avoid unnecessarily escalating tensions. China regards democratic and self-governing Taiwan as its own territory and has raised the possibility of annexing it by force.
The White House is bracing for another call between Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping, a conversation the US president said is expecting this week despite being diagnosed with COVID-19.
The growing chorus pushing Biden to publicly back Pelosi also raises the risk that the president will be seen as insufficiently tough on China.
“President Pelosi should go to Taiwan and President Biden should make it very clear to President Xi that there is nothing the Chinese Communist Party can do about this,” Senator Ben Sasse, R. -Neb. “More weakness and self-deterrence. It’s very simple: Taiwan is an ally, and the Speaker of the House of Representatives should meet with the Taiwanese men and women who stare at the threat of Communist China.
The White House on Monday declined to directly weigh in on Pelosi’s trip — including whether the speaker has Biden’s blessing — considering it hasn’t confirmed it.
“The administration routinely provides members of Congress with information and context for potential travel, including geopolitical and security considerations,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said, without directly responding. to Pelosi’s possible plans. “Members of Congress will make their own decisions.”
State Department spokesman Ned Price also declined to discuss any concerns.
“I will just reaffirm our policy, and that is that we remain committed to maintaining peace and stability across the strait and our ‘One China’ policy,” Price said, referring to the US position that recognizes Beijing as the Government of China but allows for informal relations and defense ties with Taipei.
Privately, the administration is particularly concerned that a convergence of future events could make a Chinese response to a Pelosi visit even stronger and more spirited than it otherwise would be, officials say. The Chinese Communist Party congress, due in November, where Xi intends to further consolidate his grip on power, is one such event.
International events in the coming months could also prompt China to react more forcefully than in the past if it feels its concerns are ignored or its president is despised, officials said. These include the annual UN General Assembly in September and several summits in Asia – the G-20 in Indonesia, the East Asia Summit in Cambodia and the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Forum. Pacific in Thailand – scheduled for October and November. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the administration’s perspective.
U.S. officials said the administration doubted China would take action against Pelosi herself or attempt to sabotage or otherwise interfere with a visit, but they said the administration would not rule out the possibility that China could step up provocative military aircraft overflights in or near Taiwan. air and naval patrols in the Taiwan Strait if the trip takes place. The officials also said the administration does not rule out China also stepping up its actions outside the immediate area of Taiwan as a show of force, possibly expanding military operations in disputed areas of the China Sea. southern.
Earlier on Monday, Taipei held air raid drills and the island’s military carried out routine defense drills amid rising tensions over the potential visit, though there’s no direct link between those drills and the threats posed by Beijing if Pelosi makes the move. travel.
The Chinese in general do not appreciate or fully understand the concept of the separation of powers between the executive, legislative and judicial branches. These distinctions for them are further muddled because the last time a House speaker visited Taiwan, Newt Gingrich, was the speaker of a Republican-controlled House under a Democratic president.
Pelosi is said to be visiting at a time when Democrats control the House, Senate and White House, so there are concerns that the Chinese will see this as an administrative decision.
Gingrich himself tweeted his support for Pelosi on Monday: “What is the Pentagon thinking when they publicly warn against President Pelosi going to Taiwan? If we are so intimidated by the Chinese Communists that we cannot even protect an American Speaker of the House, why should Beijing believe that we can help Taiwan survive. Shyness is dangerous.
Mark Esper, Secretary of Defense in the Trump administration, said Monday that he had recently returned from Taipei and that more senior US officials should visit to help shape US policy in the region. He also stressed that China should not have a veto over the travel of US officials.
“I think if the speaker wants to go, she should go,” Esper said on CNN’s “New Day.”
Meanwhile, former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, a Republican who served in the Trump administration, tweeted on Sunday: “Nancy, I’m going with you. I’m banned in China, but not in freedom-loving Taiwan. We’ll see each other there!”
Biden last week raised US government concerns about Pelosi’s possible visit, telling reporters after returning from Massachusetts that the military thinks his trip is “not a good idea right now.”
A Pelosi spokesperson again declined to comment on Monday, citing security protocol. Last week, Pelosi said it was “important for us to show our support for Taiwan” and that she thought Biden meant “maybe the military was afraid our plane would be shot down or something. that by the Chinese”.
Pelosi has positioned herself as a lawmaker unafraid to take on Beijing almost from the time she was sworn into Congress in 1987. When she walked to Tiananmen Square two years after the 1989 massacre, she defiantly unfurled a banner that read “To those who are dead for democracy in China”. Three years ago, Pelosi voiced support for pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong, once again sparking ire from the Chinese government.
She had planned to visit Taiwan in April, but postponed the trip after testing positive for COVID-19.
PA Congressional Correspondent Lisa Mascaro contributed to this report.