WASHINGTON – The United States warned China on Monday not to respond to it An anticipated trip to Taiwan by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi With military provocations, even as US officials sought to reassure Beijing that such a visit would not be the first of its kind and would not represent any change in policy toward the region.
With tensions rising on the eve of Ms Pelosi’s upcoming arrival in Taipei, the White House said it was concerned that China might fire missiles into the Taiwan Strait, send warplanes into Taiwan’s air defense zone or organize large-scale naval or air activities crossing conventional lines.
“There is no reason for Beijing to turn a potential visit consistent with long-standing US policy into some kind of crisis or conflict, or use it as a pretext for increasing aggressive military activity in or around the Taiwan Strait,” said John F. National Security Council spokesman told reporters. He added: “In the meantime, our actions do not pose a threat and do not open up new horizons. Nothing about this potential visit – the possible visit, which, incidentally, has a precedent – would change the status quo.”
But Beijing made it clear that it was not reassured. “We would like to say to the United States once again that China stands by its side, the Chinese People’s Liberation Army will never stand idly by, and China will take resolute responses and strong countermeasures to defend its sovereignty and territorial integrity,” Zhao Lijian, a foreign ministry spokesman told reporters. “As for measures, if you dare to go, let us wait and see.”
The standoff over the spokesman’s visit has raised tension on both sides of the Pacific at a time when the United States is already busy helping Ukraine fight the Russian invasion. Even as they were trying to avoid a confrontation in Asia on Monday, Secretary of State Anthony J. Shipments of weapons worth $550 million to Ukraine.
While the military, intelligence and diplomatic officials who briefed Ms. Pelosi before her departure for Asia warned that a stopover in Taiwan could incite a response that could spiral out of control, President Biden refrained from urging her not to deviate from respect for her status. As head of a separate and equal branch of government.
in Phone call With Chinese President Xi Jinping last week, Mr. Biden made clear he had no control over Ms Pelosi and, as a longtime former congressman, he respected her right to make her own decisions. But US officials fear that China does not accept that he does not have the power to stop it.
Mr. Blinken emphasized that point on Monday. “The spokeswoman will make her own decisions about whether to visit Taiwan or not,” he said. Congress is an independent and equal branch of government. The decision is wholly speaking.
He added that members of Congress routinely go to Taiwan, including earlier this year. “So if the spokesperson decides to visit, and China tries to create some kind of crisis or escalate tensions, it will all be on Beijing,” Mr. Blinken said. “We are looking for them, should you decide to visit, to act responsibly and not get involved in any escalation in the future.”
Pelosi, who arrived in Singapore on Monday, has not officially confirmed her plan to stop in Taiwan, citing security concerns. But local reports in Taiwan said officials there had told it would arrive on Tuesday evening or Wednesday morning local time. She had originally planned to visit Taiwan in April but canceled that trip after she tested positive for the coronavirus.
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US officials monitoring intelligence reports have become convinced in recent days that China is preparing a hostile response of some sort — not a direct attack on Taiwan or an attempt to intercept Ms Pelosi’s plane, as some fear, but an assertion of military might that has surpassed even the aggressive confrontations of recent months. . Some pointed to the Taiwan Strait crisis in 1995 and 1996, when China launched missiles to intimidate the autonomous island and President Bill Clinton ordered aircraft carriers into the area.
Analysts said a similar conflict could be more dangerous today because the People’s Liberation Army is much stronger than it was then, now armed with missiles that can take out aircraft carriers. The concern is that even if there is no intentional fight, the occasional confrontation can easily get out of hand.
“This is a very dangerous situation, perhaps even more so than in Ukraine,” said Evan Medeiros, a China expert at Georgetown University and a former adviser to President Barack Obama on Asia. “The risks of escalation are immediate and significant.”
At the White House, Kirby did not say whether US intelligence agencies had detected any concrete indications of Chinese actions, but he was extraordinarily specific in outlining the possible responses the United States expected.
White House officials in private Expressed concern Mrs. Pelosi’s visit will set off a dangerous escalation cycle in Asia at the same time that Washington is already busy helping Ukraine fight the Russian invasion. Many US military-industrial complexes are busy arming Ukraine, which could hamper efforts to boost arms shipments to Taiwan.
Mr. Kirby said US officials did not necessarily expect an attack by China in response, but cautioned that potential military demonstrations of force could accidentally erupt into conflict. “It increases the risk of miscalculation, which can lead to unintended consequences,” Kirby said.
He seemed especially intent on getting the message to Beijing that it should not view Mrs. Pelosi’s visit as a new provocation on the part of the United States because she would not be the first speaker to go there; House Speaker Newt Gingrich stopped in Taiwan in 1997. Mr. Kirby has repeatedly emphasized that the United States remains committed to the one-China policy of not recognizing Taiwan independence.
“We’ve made it very clear if you go – if you go – it’s not without precedent,” he said. “It’s not new. It doesn’t change anything.”
While White House officials had had little hope of deterring Beijing, they chose to outline potential Chinese responses to lay the geopolitical ground for provocation so as not to be a surprise.
But even if they get past the direct conflict without escalation, officials worry that the rift will precipitate an increasingly assertive stance on the part of China, which has been moving in that direction in recent months anyway. Analysts said Mr. Xi cannot look weak on his way to an important caucus in November when he seeks a third term.
Just as Mr. Xi’s domestic policies were a factor, so were those of Biden and Ms. Pelosi. Even if the spokeswoman wanted to cancel her stop in Taiwan, it would be a problem at home because it would be seen as appeasement with a retaliatory force. Republicans have been particularly vocal in encouraging her to press on with the trip regardless of the Biden administration’s concerns.
Senator Marco Rubio, Republican of Florida, said China should not push the United States on its trip. “I pray that the leaders of the Chinese Communist Party will remember the old and wise advice,” wrote on Twitterciting a saying, “When anger arises think of the consequences.”
He added: “We may have deep internal political differences, but we will respond with indissoluble unity if we are threatened from the outside.”