Speaker of the United States House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi is set to land in Taiwan on Tuesday night in defiance of Chinese threats, a trip that would make her the highest ranking American politician to visit the island in 25 years.
Pelosi is expected to arrive at 10:20 p.m. local time by private plane at Songshan Airport, according to the Liberty Times, one of several news outlets tied to Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen’s ruling party. At a regular briefing on Tuesday afternoon, Taiwan’s foreign ministry said it could not comment on speculation surrounding Pelosi’s trip.
“Taiwan always welcomes international visitors who come to Taiwan to better understand Taiwan and show support for Taiwan,” ministry spokeswoman Joanne Ou told reporters.
China, which considers Taiwan part of its territory, has promised an unspecified military response to any visit by Pelosi that risks triggering a crisis between the world’s largest economies. President Xi Jinping told President Joe Biden last week that he would “resolutely safeguard China’s national sovereignty and territorial integrity” and that “anyone who plays with fire will be burned.”
Although there are few signs that China is considering a full-scale invasion of Taiwan, Beijing has responded to past visits by foreign officials with major sorties into the Taiwan Air Defense Identification Zone or across the median line dividing the strait. A large number of PLA fighter jets flew near the median line on Monday morning, Taiwan’s TVBS reported, adding that Taiwanese military warships were also deployed in what it called a rescue operation. routine.
Taiwan’s defense ministry said in a statement on Tuesday that the island’s military was ready to send “appropriate armed forces depending on the threat.” “The army is determined, confident and capable of ensuring national security,” he added.
Caution swept through financial markets as the countdown to Pelosi’s visit. The MSCI Inc. Asia-Pacific stock index fell the most in three weeks, with some of the steepest falls in Hong Kong, China and Taiwan. US and European stock futures were also in the red. Treasuries and the yen rose amid demand for safe havens.
Pelosi held meetings in Malaysia on Tuesday, the second leg of his trip through Asia that began a day earlier in Singapore. People familiar with the matter said she would travel to Taiwan after Malaysia, before heading to South Korea and Japan, two staunch US allies.
The American politician will visit Taiwan’s parliament on Wednesday morning and have lunch with Tsai, according to the Apple Daily newspaper.
Pelosi would become the highest-ranking U.S. politician to visit Taiwan since then-House Speaker Newt Gingrich did so in 1997. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said said Monday that Pelosi’s stature as the No. 3 official in the United States made his trip highly sensitive, reiterating that the military “will not sit idly by.”
China’s reaction to Pelosi’s visit will be closely watched. A White House National Security Council spokesman, John Kirby, told MSNBC on Monday that Beijing should not view his trip as a provocation.
He added that it is “disconcerting that the Chinese can use this as some sort of pretext to actually increase tensions.”
Chinese media, including the Communist Party’s Global Times, suggested the People’s Liberation Army would react aggressively to a trip by Pelosi, possibly sending warplanes right over the island.
Visits by lower-level US lawmakers have also provoked military responses from China. Last November, Chinese warplanes flew over the east coast of the island after a visit by a US congressional delegation.
The last major crisis in Taiwan dates back to 1995-96, when China launched missiles into the sea near ports and then-President Bill Clinton sent two aircraft carrier battle groups to the region. Gingrich visited Taiwan and China the year after that episode, telling Beijing that the United States would defend the island.
(Journalist and Bloomberg)