US House Speaker Pelosi kicks off Asia tour, no mention of Taiwan

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Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the US House of Representatives, will embark on a tour of four Asian countries on Sunday, her office said, without naming Taiwan, amid speculation she could visit the self-ruled island claimed by China.

“Speaker Nancy Pelosi is leading a congressional delegation to the Indo-Pacific region, including visits to Singapore, Malaysia, South Korea and Japan,” her office said in a press release on Sunday.

The statement said the visit would include those countries, but did not specify whether Pelosi, who is number three in the line of United States presidential succession, would make other stops.

“The trip will focus on mutual security, economic partnership and democratic governance in the Indo-Pacific region,” it said.

Gregory Meeks, chairman of the US House Committee on Foreign Affairs, was one of the delegations on the list.

China sees visits by US officials to Taiwan as an encouraging signal to the pro-independence camp on the island. Washington has no official diplomatic ties with Taiwan, but is required by law to provide the island with the means to defend itself.

A visit from Pelosi would be a dramatic, if not unprecedented, show of US support for Taiwan. Republican Newt Gingrich was the last speaker of the House to visit Taiwan in 1997.

Chinese President Xi Jinping warned his US counterpart Joe Biden on Thursday that Washington must adhere to the one-China principle and that “those who play with fire will perish.”

Biden told Xi that US policy towards Taiwan had not changed and that Washington strongly opposes unilateral attempts to change the status quo or undermine peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait.

Al Jazeera’s White House correspondent Kimberly Halkett said that although Pelosi’s itinerary has been announced, there is a possibility that Taiwan could be added to the list of countries at the last minute.

“Given that there has been controversy, it is not surprising that it is not on the original schedule,” Halkett said.

“The message from the Chinese government [during Thursday’s two-hour phone call] was very clear to the US that any visit from the house speaker would be seen as meddling in Chinese affairs. A strong warning has been issued, but in the end it is up to the house speaker whether she will make that journey or not.”

Taiwan’s foreign ministry said Friday after the call between Xi and Biden that Taiwan would continue to deepen its close security partnership with the US.

Chinese Air Force spokesman Shen Jinke was quoted by state media on Sunday as saying that Beijing “would resolutely protect national sovereignty and territorial integrity”.

Shen said at a military air show that the Air Force has many types of fighter jets capable of orbiting “our motherland’s precious island,” referring to Taiwan.

He said the Chinese Air Force has the determination, full confidence and sufficient capacity to defend national sovereignty and territorial integrity.

A comment on Friday by a unit of the People’s Liberation Army on Weibo, China’s Twitter-like social media platform – “Prepare for war!” – received 1.87 million thumbs-ups.

South Chinese Ocean

When the US aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan and its attack group returned to the South China Sea on Thursday, China was conducting military exercises nearby.

According to local authorities, Chinese military personnel held live fire drills on Saturday in the waters of Fujian province, more than 100 km (62 miles) from Taiwan.

China’s coast guard is holding a drill in the South China Sea off Guangzhou province on Monday, according to another report from the Maritime Safety Administration.

Prominent Chinese commentator Hu Xijin said on Saturday he deleted a tweet warning of military retaliation if US fighter jets escort Pelosi on a visit to Taiwan after Twitter blocked his account.

White House national security spokesman John Kirby said on Friday the US has seen no evidence of impending Chinese military activity against Taiwan.

On Wednesday, Biden told reporters he thought the US military believed Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan was “not a good idea right now.”

Pelosi’s Asian tour comes at a politically sensitive time for Chinese and American leaders.

Xi is expected to seek a precedent-breaking third term at a National People’s Congress later this year, while in the US, Biden’s Democratic Party will face a tough battle to retain control of the US House of Representatives in the November midterm elections. .



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