US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi headed to Taiwan? China warns of ‘very serious consequences’ over possible visit

US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi

US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi

Photo : AP

Taipei: Amid escalating tension with China over Taiwan, US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has now left for an Asia tour that could take her to the disputed territory. Some of the itinerary details remain shrouded in secrecy, with murmurs about a possible Taiwan visit dominating attention in the run-up. China meanwhile has warned of ‘very serious situation and consequences’ if the US official lands on the island.

Pelosi’s office confirmed her Asia trip in a statement Sunday once her plane was in the air, following days of US media speculation and the speaker refusing to confirm her itinerary. Her first stop was Singapore, where Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong urged her at a meeting to strive for “stable” ties with Beijing.

The trip will focus on “mutual security, economic partnership and democratic governance in the Indo-Pacific region” and the itinerary also includes Malaysia, South Korea and Japan. The statement did not mention Taiwan. But visits by US officials there are usually kept secret until delegations land. Reports quoting unnamed sources among Taiwanese and US officials also appeared to support this possibility.

As House speaker, Pelosi is third in line to the US presidency and one of the country’s most powerful politicians.

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Beijing considers self-ruled Taiwan its territory – to be seized one day, by force if necessary – and said it would regard a Pelosi visit as a major provocation. “If House Speaker Nancy Pelosi visits Taiwan, China will take resolute and strong countermeasures to defend its sovereignty and territorial integrity. As to what measures, if she dares to go, then let’s wait and see,” said Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said.
Such a visit, Beijing asserted, would “seriously threaten the peace and stability” of the Taiwan Strait. Last week, US President Joe Biden and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping had had a tense phone call clouded by disagreements over Taiwan. The latter had issued an oblique warning to the United States not to “play with fire” over the island.

The United States maintains a policy of “strategic ambiguity” over whether it would militarily intervene were China to invade. While it diplomatically recognises Beijing over Taipei, it also backs Taiwan’s democratic government and opposes any forced change to the island’s status.