() — US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi will visit Taiwan as part of her Asia tour, according to a senior Taiwanese government official and a US official, despite warnings from officials. from the Biden administration, who are concerned about China’s response to such a high-profile visit.
The visit, the first for a US House Speaker in 25 years, is not currently on Pelosi’s public itinerary and comes at a time when relations between the US and China are already at a low point.
The Taiwan official added that Pelosi is expected to spend the night in Taiwan. It is unclear exactly when he will land in Taipei.
The US official added that defense department officials are working around the clock to monitor any Chinese movement in the region and ensure a plan to keep it safe.
The question of Taiwan – an autonomous island that China claims as part of its territory – remains one of the most contentious. President Joe Biden and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping discussed it at length in a two-hour, 17-minute phone call on Thursday, as tensions between Washington and Beijing rise.
“The Taiwan issue is the most sensitive and important core issue in China-US relations,” Chinese Ambassador to the US Qin Gang said at the Aspen Security Forum in July.
Biden said last month that the US military was opposed to Pelosi visiting Taiwan, though he has since declined to elaborate on the warnings. The White House said it is up to the House speaker where he travels, and that they have little say in her decision.
However, administration officials have worked in recent weeks to explain the risks of a visit to Taiwan in meetings with Pelosi and her team. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin recently said that he had discussed a visit to Asia with Pelosi.
The administration takes special care of Pelosi’s safety when she travels abroad because she is in the presidential line of succession.
Administration officials are concerned that Pelosi’s trip comes at an especially tense time, as Xi is expected to seek an unprecedented third term at the next Chinese Communist Party congress. Chinese party officials are expected to start laying the groundwork for that congress in the coming weeks, putting pressure on leaders in Beijing to take a stand.
Officials also believe that Chinese leaders do not fully understand the political dynamics in the United States, leading to a misunderstanding about the importance of a possible visit by Pelosi. Officials say China may be mistaking Pelosi’s visit for an official administration visit, since both she and Biden are Democrats. Administration officials worry that China will not separate Pelosi from Biden very much, if at all.
Pelosi has long been a critic of the Chinese Communist Party. She has met with pro-democracy dissidents and the Dalai Lama, the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader who remains a thorn in the Chinese government’s side. In 1991, Pelosi unfurled a black-and-white banner in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square to commemorate the victims of the 1989 massacre, reading, “To those who died for democracy.” In recent years, she has expressed her support for the pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong.
The Chinese embassy in the United States has opposed her long-awaited trip, which was planned for April before Pelosi tested positive for Covid-19, urging members of Congress to tell the president not to do so.
“I would say that the Chinese embassy has exerted full pressure to discourage travel to Taiwan,” Democratic Rep. Rick Larsen from Washington, co-chair of the US-China congressional task force, told . “I don’t think it’s their business to tell us what to do. That was my reply message.”
Liu Pengyu, a spokesman for the Chinese embassy in the United States, responded that his office is in “regular contact” with members of Congress, including Larsen.
“On the Taiwan issue, we have made our position clear,” Pengyu said. “The Embassy is making every effort to prevent peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait and the stability of China-US relations from being harmed by the possible visit of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, to Taiwan.”
“We hope that serious consequences can be avoided,” he added. “This is in the common interests of China and the United States.”
Many Democrats and Republicans in Congress said it was Pelosi’s right to travel to Taiwan.
“The decision whether or not to travel to Taiwan is up to Speaker Pelosi alone, not any other country,” said Illinois Republican Rep. Darin LaHood, Larsen’s Republican counterpart on the US-China task force. “In our democratic system, we function with separate but equal powers.”
“It is inappropriate for foreign governments, including the Chinese government, to attempt to influence the ability or right of the Speaker of Parliament, members of Congress or other US government officials to travel to Taiwan or anywhere else in the world,” he added. .
Other members appeared to be more cautious about the trip, which is diplomatically sensitive.
California Democratic Rep. Judy Chu, the first Chinese American woman elected to Congress, said she “has always supported Taiwan.”
But when asked if a trip to Taiwan now would send the wrong message, Chu said: “You can look at it two ways. One is that relations are very strained right now. But on the other hand, you could say maybe It is now that Taiwan also needs to be shown strength and support.”
When asked what he thought, he said: “I leave it up to whoever is going to make that decision.”
‘s Nectar Gan contributed to this report.