House Speaker Nancy Pelosi landed in Taiwan on Tuesday evening local time amid warnings from China and concern from the White House.
Pelosi, a Democrat from California, had been mulling over a trip for weeks, and speculation grew as she arrived in Singapore on Monday to start her Asia tour. China in turn ramped up its threats, with Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian warning that the People’s Liberation Army would not “sit idly by” should she go through with the visit, according to Bloomberg.
Pelosi is the highest-ranking elected official from the U.S. to visit Taiwan since former Speaker Newt Gingrich’s trip back in 1997. Upon landing, Pelosi issued a statement declaring that the Congressional visit “honors America’s unwavering commitment to supporting Taiwan’s vibrant Democracy.”
Pelosi, on the ground in Taiwan: “America’s solidarity with the 23 million people of Taiwan is more important today than ever, as the world faces a choice between autocracy and democracy.” pic.twitter.com/reUXXKlAaM
— Jacqui Heinrich (@JacquiHeinrich) August 2, 2022
The Biden administration has been working overtime amid the much-anticipated trip, with White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby rebuking China’s rhetoric during Monday’s press briefing. Kirby reiterated that the U.S. policy regarding Taiwan remains unchanged. (RELATED: Chinese Ships, Warplanes Taunt Taiwan As Pelosi’s Plane Nears Contested Island)
“There is no reason for Beijing to turn a potential visit consistent with long-standing U.S. policy into some sort of crisis or use it as a pretext to increase aggressive military activity in or around the Taiwan Strait,” Kirby told reporters.
When news of a possible Taiwan trip first broke, President Joe Biden admitted to reporters “that the military thinks it’s not a good idea right now.” Still, the White House maintains that the Speaker makes her own decisions – a point that Biden himself apparently emphasized during a recent call with Chinese President Xi Jinping.
During that call, according to Kirby, the president “made clear that Congress is an independent branch of government and that Speaker Pelosi makes her own decisions, as other members of Congress do, about their overseas travel.”
Pelosi will reportedly meet with Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen and legislative members, according to The Wall Street Journal.
“Our discussions with Taiwan leadership will focus on reaffirming our support for our partner and on promoting our shared interests, including advancing a free and open Indo-Pacific region,” Pelosi said in her statement regarding the trip. “America’s solidarity with the 23 million people of Taiwan is more important today than ever, as the world faces a choice between autocracy and democracy.”