Biden administration officials are warning China not to take escalatory actions amid House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s prospective trip to Taiwan, emphasizing that the potential visit would not mark a shift in American foreign policy.
“There is no reason for Beijing to turn a potential visit, consistent with long standing US policy, into some sort of crisis or conflict, or use it as a pretext to increase aggressive military activity in or around the Taiwan Strait,” National Security Council Strategic Coordinator for Communications John Kirby told reporters on Monday.
Pelosi is expected to visit Taiwan as part of her ongoing tour of Asia, according to a senior Taiwanese government official and a US official. That’s despite warnings from Biden administration officials, who are worried about China’s response to such a high-profile visit. The stop – the first for a US House speaker in 25 years – is not currently on Pelosi’s public itinerary and comes at a time when US-China relations are already at a low point.
Chinese government officials have escalated their rhetoric ahead of Pelosi’s prospective trip.
During a regular foreign ministry briefing Monday, China warned against the “egregious political impact” of Pelosi’s planned visit to the self-governing island that China claims as a part of its territory. Chinese officials reiterated that the nation’s “won’t sit by idly” if Beijing feels its “sovereignty and territorial integrity” is being threatened.
And though China’s military did not mention Taiwan, the People’s Liberation Army’s Eastern Theater Command recently released a video saying it would “bury incoming enemies,” showing off its weaponry and fighting tactics.
While President Joe Biden had said publicly ahead of the Asia trip that the US military did not believe it was a good time for Pelosi to visit Taiwan, he has stopped short of telling her directly not to go, according to two sources.
And Biden discussed the trip with Chinese President Xi Jinping on a call last week. Kirby told CNN’s MJ Lee during Monday’s White House briefing that Biden emphasized to Xi that Pelosi, as a member of Congress, makes her own decisions on international travel.
Biden administration officials this week have repeatedly asserted that China should not view Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan as a potential change in US policy.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken reiterated the administration’s line that Pelosi’s decision whether she will visit Taiwan.
“Congress is an independent, coequal branch of government,” Blinken said in remarks at the United Nations Monday. “The decision is entirely the speaker’s.”
Blinken said that such a visit has precedent among past members of Congress visiting Taiwan, saying, “If the speaker does decide to visit and China tries to create some kind of crisis or otherwise escalate tensions, that would be entirely on Beijing.”
“We are looking for them, in the event she decides to visit, to act responsibly and not to engage in any escalation going forward,” he continued.
Kirby on Monday also repeated on multiple occasions that “nothing has changed” with regards to the US’ “One China Policy,” recognizing Taiwan as part of China.
“We will not take the bait or engage in saber-rattling,” Kirby pledged, while maintaining the US “will not be intimidated,” and will continue to operate in the Indo-Pacific while seeking to maintain lines of communication with Beijing.
He said the administration expects “to see Beijing continue to use inflammatory rhetoric and disinformation in the coming days,” but that the US remains focused on “trying to manage tensions, and quite frankly, manage one of the most consequential bilateral relationships in the world.”