An Sunday, the “speaker” of the US House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, set out on a trip to Asia without saying whether it would also include a trip to Taiwan. In such a case, China threatens military action. In a statement, Pelosi named Singapore, Malaysia, South Korea and Japan as stops on the trip.
The Democrat had previously dismissed questions about a possible trip to Taiwan, saying she never spoke about her travel plans for “security reasons.” The goal of the trip is to “reaffirm America’s strong and unwavering commitment to our allies and friends in the region,” said the 82-year-old politician, who is accompanied by five members of Congress. The delegation is expected in Singapore this Monday.
China reacted with further threatening gestures to the continued speculation about a possible trip to Taiwan by Pelosi. On Saturday, the Navy closed off a sea area in the Taiwan Straits a hundred kilometers off the Taiwanese coast for target practice. On Sunday, the Air Force reiterated its determination to “protect national sovereignty and territorial integrity.” During an air show, a spokesman said the country has many fighter jets that could orbit “the precious island of our motherland,” according to state media. A unit of the Chinese military posted the statement “Prepare for war!” on the Weibo network. The post was circulated by state media. A White House spokesman said there was no evidence of any unusual military action towards Taiwan for the time being.
Xi addresses clear words to Biden
The military rhetoric also has to do with the 95th anniversary of the founding of the military this Monday. On the night of August 1, 1927, the Chinese Communist Party took action against the then government of the Republic of China in an armed uprising for the first time and called it the Red Army. To this day, the Chinese military is committed first to the party and only then to the country. The proximity to the military holiday increases the political sensitivity of a possible visit to Taiwan by Pelosi.
In addition, a few weeks before the 20th party congress, where he wants to secure a third term in office, President Xi Jinping will not want to show any weakness on the issue of Taiwan. As “speaker” of the House of Representatives, Pelosi is number three in the United States’ ranking of protocol. That would make her the highest-ranking American visitor to Taiwan in 25 years.
One of the leading experts on Chinese security policy, Bonnie Glaser of the German Marshall Fund for the United States, has warned that a Pelosi visit to Taiwan could trigger a crisis “that could escalate into a military conflict”. In an opinion piece for the New York Times, she wrote that US President Joe Biden’s unclear statements about Taiwan helped China’s head of state apparently believe that the United States “could soon support Taiwan’s formal independence.”
In a phone call with Biden on Thursday, Xi threatened that “those who play with fire will perish.” He was repeating a sentence he had said in an earlier phone call in November. According to the White House, the US President said in the call that US policy on Taiwan has not changed and that the United States “strongly rejects any unilateral change in the status quo”. A Taiwan declaration of independence would be such a unilateral change in the status quo. Biden has publicly distanced himself from a possible trip to Taiwan by Pelosi, saying the US military “doesn’t think it’s a good idea right now.”
The Taiwanese government has not yet publicly commented on this issue. A spokesman for the State Department in Taipei said Sunday it had no information about a visit but welcomed any visit by US lawmakers. One reason for the reluctance is that President Tsai Ing-wen wants to offer China as little target as possible.