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Nancy Pelosi expected to visit Taiwan amid warnings from China

China warns its military will ‘never sit idly by’ if the House speaker visits the island

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A man uses a magnifying glass to read a headline reporting on U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s Asia visit in Beijing.

A man uses a magnifying glass to read a newspaper headline reporting on U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s Asia visit at a stand in Beijing on Sunday, July 31, 2022. Pelosi confirmed Sunday she will visit four Asian countries this week but made no mention of a possible stop in Taiwan that has fueled tension with Beijing, which claims the island democracy as its own territory.

Andy Wong, Associated Press

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is reportedly planning to visit Taiwan during her tour of Asia, even as China has issued stark warnings against such a visit.

The reports of her visit come from various Taiwanese and White House officials, but have not been confirmed.

What’s happening: Pelosi landed in Singapore on Sunday to kick off a trip that will include meetings in Malaysia, South Korea and Japan. Though not part of her official itinerary, the California Democrat has been rumored to be planning a visit to Taiwan amid concerns about how China might respond.

Initial reports indicated the White House may have been trying to dissuade Pelosi from her visit, but officials have said recently she will “make her own decision,” per CNN.

John Kirby, National Security Council coordinator for strategic communications, told reporters last week that it’s “routine” to provide the speaker with analysis and occasionally security assistance during international trips.

Why is Taiwan important? Taiwan is a flash point in U.S.-China relations. Although the island is democratically self-governed, China considers Taiwan as part of its territory.

The U.S. has adopted a policy of ambiguity, agreeing that Taiwan is part of China but maintaining support for democratic rule in the island. In recent years, China has taken a more aggressive approach toward Taiwan, raising questions of whether the U.S. would intervene militarily to protect Taiwan’s democratic status. 

What’s next? Pelosi has been a critic of the ruling Chinese Communist Party. A visit to Taiwan, though mostly symbolic, would be the highest-level trip by an American official in decades. Chinese officials have called a potential visit “a gross interference in China’s internal affairs” and threatened “very serious developments and consequences.”

Key quote: “The Chinese People’s Liberation Army will never sit idly by, and China will take resolute responses and strong countermeasures to defend its sovereignty and territorial integrity,” Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian told reporters Monday.