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

The Washington Post logo The Washington Post 7/19/2022 Adela Suliman, Christian Shepherd
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) arrives to speak at her weekly news conference July 14 on Capitol Hill. © Mariam Zuhaib/AP House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) arrives to speak at her weekly news conference July 14 on Capitol Hill.

China’s Foreign Ministry lashed out 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 delayed her trip to Asia after contracting the coronavirus.

A visit this summer would make Pelosi one of the most senior U.S. politicians to travel to Taiwan in recent years and the first House speaker 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 due to 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 forceful measures to defend national sovereignty and territorial integrity,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said.

Such a trip would cause “grave harm to China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity,” he added, and “seriously impact the political foundations of China-U.S. relations.”

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Taiwan’s Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, Joanne Ou, said her agency had not received information related to reports of Pelosi’s visit.

Beijing claims Taiwan as its own and has pledged to achieve what it calls “reunification,” threatening, if necessary, to use force to take control of the self-ruled island. The United States has for decades walked a fine line, not taking a position on the status of Taiwan’s sovereignty but asserting repeatedly that it opposes any unilateral changes to the status quo.

The flag lowering ceremony at the Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall in Taipei, Taiwan on July 2. © Lam Yik Fei/Bloomberg News The flag lowering ceremony at the Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall in Taipei, Taiwan on July 2.

Video: China threatens ‘forceful measures’ if Pelosi visits Taiwan (Reuters)

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

The European war and invasion by a superpower of its neighbor has especially resonated in Asia, with Taiwan taking steps to bolster its military readiness against any attack from China as Beijing sharpened its rhetoric toward Taipei in recent months.

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During his first trip to Asia as president in May, Biden signaled a more confrontational approach toward China and issued a sharp warning against any potential attack on Taiwan. Asked whether the United States would defend Taiwan militarily if it is attacked by Beijing, Biden said: “Yes, that’s the commitment we made.”

His comment represented a departure from the usual U.S. policy of remaining vague on the subject and was swiftly walked back by aides and criticized by Beijing at the time. The United States has long maintained a policy of strategic ambiguity over the extent of U.S. assistance, making it deliberately unclear what it would do if it comes to defending Taiwan.

Zhao told reporters at a news briefing Tuesday that Congress, as part of the U.S. government, should abide by the one-China policy, referring to the United States’ long-standing position that acknowledges Beijing’s assertion that there is only one China, with the understanding that Taiwan’s fate will not be decided by force.

Pelosi has been a vocal critic of China and met virtually in January with Taiwan’s vice president, William Lai Ching-te, when he was in the United States. He thanked her for championing human rights and called her a “true friend” of Taiwan.

Taiwan has lived 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 set up a rival government.

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

China’s defense minister, Gen. Wei Fenghe, called Washington a “bully” in June and promised to “fight to the end” to take over Taiwan if a confrontation is forced, ramping up a war of words with the United States.

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

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