White House rejects Chinese rhetoric over visit to Pelosi Taiwan

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WASHINGTON — The White House on Monday dismissed Beijing’s rhetoric over an expected visit to Taiwan by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, vowing that the United States “will not take the bait or engage in saber-rattling” and has no interest in mounting tensions with China. .

White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby underlined that the decision on whether or not to visit the self-ruled island China claims as its own was ultimately Pelosi’s. He noted that members of Congress have regularly visited Taiwan over the years.

Kirby said government officials are concerned that Beijing could use the visit as an excuse to retaliate provocatively, including military action such as firing missiles into the Taiwan Strait or around Taiwan.

“Put simply, there is no reason for Beijing to turn a potential visit consistent with long-standing US policy into some kind of crisis or use it as a pretext to stop aggressive military activity in or around the Straits of Taiwan,” Kirby said.

The Biden administration pushed Pelosi back when Pelosi held talks with officials in Singapore at the start of her Asian tour on Monday.

While there have been no official announcements, local media in Taiwan reported that Pelosi will arrive Tuesday night, making her the highest-ranking US official in more than 25 years. The United Daily News, Liberty Times and China Times – Taiwan’s three largest national newspapers – quoted unidentified sources as saying she would arrive in Taipei after visiting Malaysia and spend the night.

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Talks about such a visit have sparked anger in Beijing, which considers Taiwan its own territory and has repeatedly warned of “serious consequences” if the reported trip goes ahead.

“If Pelosi insists on visiting Taiwan, China will take resolute and firm measures to defend its sovereignty and territorial integrity,” China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said in Beijing, without giving details.

“Those who play with fire will die,” Zhao said. “We would like to reassure the US that we are fully prepared for any eventuality and that the PLA will never sit idly by.” The People’s Liberation Army is the military of China.

Chinese President Xi Jinping last week in a telephone conversation with President Joe Biden warned the US against meddling in Beijing’s dealings with the island.

China is steadily increasing diplomatic and military pressure on Taiwan. Threats of retaliation for a visit by Pelosi have raised concerns about a new crisis in the Taiwan Strait, dividing the two sides, that could shake global markets and supply chains.

Beijing sees official US contact with Taiwan as an encouragement to make the island’s decades-old de facto independence permanent, a move US leaders say they do not support. Pelosi, head of one of the three branches of the US government, is said to be the most senior elected US official to visit Taiwan since then-speaker Newt Gingrich in 1997.

The Biden administration has tried to assure Beijing that there was no reason to “clap” and that such a visit would mean no change in US policy. Government officials on Monday called on China to tone down the rhetoric and underlined that there was no reason for Beijing to escalate tensions in the Taiwan Strait over the potential visit.

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“What I can say is this: This is quite a precedent in that previous speakers have visited Taiwan, many congressmen are going to Taiwan, also this year,” Foreign Minister Antony Blinken said. “And so, if the speaker decides to pay a visit and China tries to create some sort of crisis or otherwise escalate tensions, that would be entirely for Beijing.”

Taiwan and China split in 1949 after the communists won a civil war on the mainland. Both sides say they are one country, but disagree on which government is entitled to national leadership. They have no official relationships, but are linked by billions of dollars in trade and investment.

The United States switched diplomatic recognition from Taipei to Beijing in 1979, but maintains informal relations with the island. Washington is required by the Taiwan Relations Act, a federal law, to ensure that Taiwan has the means to defend itself.

Washington’s “One China Policy” says it takes no stance on the status of the two sides, but wants their dispute to be resolved peacefully. Beijing is promoting an alternative “One China Principle” that says they are one country and the Communist Party is the leader.

“We expect Beijing to continue to use inflammatory rhetoric and misinformation in the coming days,” Kirby said. “The United States, on the other hand, will act transparently.”

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On Monday, Pelosi met with Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, President Halimah Yacob and other cabinet members.

Singapore’s Foreign Ministry said Lee welcomed a US commitment to strong engagement with the region, and the two sides discussed ways to deepen US economic engagement through initiatives such as the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework. .

Lee and Pelosi also discussed the war in Ukraine, tensions around Taiwan and mainland China and climate change, a statement said. Lee “emphasized the importance of stable US-China relations for regional peace and security,” it added, in clear allusion to reports of Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan.

Pelosi has said she is visiting Singapore, Malaysia, South Korea and Japan on a tour to discuss trade, the COVID-19 pandemic, climate change, security and “democratic governance.”

On Thursday, Pelosi will meet South Korea’s National Assembly Speaker Kim Jin Pyo in Seoul to discuss security in the Indo-Pacific region, economic cooperation and the climate crisis, Kim’s office said in a statement.

It declined to give further details about her itinerary, including when she will arrive in South Korea and how long she will be staying. Pelosi’s schedule for Wednesday remains unclear and there were no details on when she will be going to Japan.

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Ng reported from Kuala Lumpur and Soo reported from Hong Kong. The Bharat Express News writers Huizhong Wu in Taipei, Taiwan, Kim Hyung-jin in Seoul, South Korea, and Joshua Boak, Matthew Lee in Washington contributed to this report.