Nancy Pelosi to Travel to Asia With Possible Taiwan Stop, Despite China Warnings – WSJ

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WASHINGTON—House Speaker

Nancy Pelosi

is planning to visit major U.S. allies in Asia, people familiar with the plans said, with arrangements for a possible stop in Taiwan that has drawn warnings from China still unresolved.

The trip by Mrs. Pelosi (D., Calif.) and several other members of Congress, which is scheduled to begin this weekend, includes planned stops in Singapore, Malaysia, South Korea and Japan, the people said. Logistical preparations are under way for a Taiwan stop in case a decision to go there is finalized, one of the people said.

With China having warned repeatedly of repercussions if Mrs. Pelosi goes to Taiwan, the Navy moved the USS

Ronald Reagan

aircraft carrier and its strike group from a port call in Singapore this week into the Western Pacific toward the South China Sea. While the Pentagon said the move was long planned,  the Defense Department sometimes shifts military assets closer to areas senior political leaders and officials are visiting as a precautionary measure.

Mrs. Pelosi declined to confirm her travel plans at a news conference, citing security. She said that Congress must be part of the Biden administration’s emphasis on the Asia-Pacific region.  “It comes down to three things: security, economy and governance, and this will be part of that,” she said when asked about the importance of the trip.

Should the visit happen, Mrs. Pelosi would be the most senior U.S. politician to visit Taiwan in 25 years and, for her, would cap decades of standing up to China, especially on human rights. Beijing, however, sees visits by such a high-ranking political leader as a sign of increasing U.S. diplomatic and military support for Taiwan and a backtracking on previous commitments  to limit those ties with the democratically elected government.

Taiwan conducted naval drills Tuesday as part of its annual military and civil-preparedness exercises. The drills came amid rising concerns in the West that China could attack the island. Photo: Lam Yik Fei/Bloomberg News

The potential Pelosi Taiwan stop has discomforted the Biden administration and drawn sharp if unspecified threats of consequences from Beijing. In their more than two-hour phone meeting Thursday, Chinese leader

Xi Jinping

told President  Biden that “those who play with fire will perish by it”—a phrase an administration official said the Chinese leader has used before over Taiwan. Mr. Biden told the Chinese leader that U.S. policy on Taiwan hasn’t changed but that Washington opposes any unilateral change to the current situation.

Beijing claims Taiwan as Chinese territory and has vowed to use force to take the democratically governed island, a longstanding U.S. partner. China hawks in Congress and the national security establishment have urged Mrs. Pelosi to go, saying that Beijing should not be able to dictate the terms of U.S. engagement with Taiwan.

Senate Minority Leader

Mitch McConnell

(R., Ky.) said Tuesday that “if she doesn’t go now, she’s handed China sort of a victory of sorts.” House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R., Calif.) agreed and added that he wants to lead a congressional delegation there if he is elected House speaker.

Many of her colleagues expect Mrs. Pelosi, the top Democrat in the House,  to vacate her leadership position after the midterm elections, in which the Democrats are projected to lose their majority. Given that, the 82-year-old is in the legacy-defining stage of her three-decade-long congressional career.

As a young member of Congress on a visit to Beijing in 1991, she unfurled a banner in Tiannemen Square bearing the words “to those who died for democracy in China”—a tribute to those killed when the Chinese military quelled weeks of pro-democracy demonstrations in 1989.

Most recently she pushed through Congress last year the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act, which prohibits imports from China’s Xinjiang region over concerns that the Uyghurs and other minority ethnic groups are being used as forced labor.

Mr. Biden has not publicly said whether Mrs. Pelosi should travel to Taiwan, though he has said the U.S. military “thinks it’s not a good idea right now.” The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the top commander of the Indo-Pacific command briefed Mrs. Pelosi on the security situation.

Mrs. Pelosi’s planned travel to Singapore, Malaysia, South Korea and Japan, as well as Taiwan, takes her to a front line in the U.S. and China’s contest for global primacy. The Biden administration has placed a priority on strengthening ties with allies and partners to counter China’s growing strategic might and its increasing willingness to flex its military muscle to try to coerce neighboring states. Pentagon leaders have criticized an uptick in what they see as aggressive activity by the Chinese military, sending aircraft and ships to challenge and intercept U.S. planes and vessels and those of allied forces.

China’s military has taken to responding to recent high-level U.S. visits to Taiwan by sending aircraft and vessels into the area around the island. Should Mrs. Pelosi go, the Chinese military is likely to mount a show of force and may try to interfere with the flight path of the military plane she is expected to travel on, according to some regional specialists and Chinese commentators.

Closer U.S. ties and sales of weapons allow Taiwan to resist Beijing’s appeals and pressure for political union, according to Chinese officials. The split between China and Taiwan is a legacy of the Chinese civil war, and Mr. Xi, more than recent Communist Party leaders, has made absorbing Taiwan a more explicit objective and a marker of China’s ascendance.

Mr. Xi is in the midst of securing a norm-breaking third term as Communist Party leader at a pivotal political gathering this fall. With intense politicking under way in the party, Chinese affairs specialists say that Mr. Xi cannot appear to look weak on Taiwan and to give in to the U.S., thus raising the stakes for a Pelosi visit.

“The Chinese side has repeatedly made clear to the U.S. side our serious concern over Speaker Pelosi’s potential visit to Taiwan and our firm opposition to the visit,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman

Zhao Lijian

said Friday in the latest warning from Beijing. “If the U.S. side challenges China’s red line, it will be met with resolute countermeasures. The U.S. must bear all consequences arising thereof.”

China & Taiwan & the United States

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