The U.S. military is moving assets, including aircraft carriers and large planes, closer to Taiwan ahead of an anticipated but unconfirmed visit to the island by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
The military was initially opposed to the speaker’s visit but now looks to be creating a buffer zone for Pelosi’s plane, in case she decides to go ahead with the controversial stop.
But with China declaring that it would “never sit idly by” if she were to visit the island, tensions in East Asia have quickly escalated, perhaps against the will of both U.S. President Joe Biden, who was seeking to remove some tariffs on Chinese goods to counter inflation, and Chinese President Xi Jinping, who faces a sensitive political season at home with his rule extension on the line.
A video by the People’s Liberation Army’s Eastern Theater Command, which showed scenes of military exercises- urged troops to “stand by in battle formation, be ready to fight upon command, bury all incoming enemies.”
Pelosi to visit Taiwan, local media say, despite China warnings
U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi was set to visit Taiwan on Tuesday, three people briefed on the matter said, as China warned that its military would never “sit idly by” if she visited the self-ruled island claimed by Beijing.
Pelosi, who began an Asia trip earlier on Monday in Singapore, was due to spend Tuesday night in Taiwan, the people said.
Taiwan’s foreign ministry said it had no comment on reports of Pelosi’s travel plans.
Amid widespread speculation over whether she would make a stop in Taiwan, Pelosi’s office said on Sunday that she was leading a congressional delegation to the region that would include visits to Singapore, Malaysia, South Korea and Japan. It did not mention Taiwan.
One source told Reuters that the United States had informed some allies about Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan. Two other sources said Pelosi was scheduled to meet a small group of activists who are outspoken on about China’s human rights record during her stay in Taiwan, possibly on Wednesday.
Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said earlier on Monday that it would be “a gross interference in China’s internal affairs” if Pelosi visits Taiwan, and warned that it would lead to “very serious developments and consequences.”
“We would like to tell the United States once again that China is standing by, 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,” Zhao told a regular daily briefing.
‘If she dares’: China warns Nancy Pelosi against visiting Taiwan
In Beijing, Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian reiterated earlier warnings on Monday, saying “there will be serious consequences if she insists on making the visit”. He did not spell out any specific consequences.
“We are fully prepared for any eventuality,” he said. “The People’s Liberation Army [PLA] will never sit by idly. China will take strong and resolute measures to safeguard its sovereignty and territorial integrity.”
Asked what kind of measures the PLA might take, Zhao said: “if she dares to go, then let us wait and see.”
China announces military drills in Taiwan Strait
China said on Saturday that it was conducting military exercises in the Taiwan Strait, after Beijing warned Washington of severe consequences if US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi were to visit Taiwan during her upcoming tour of Asia.
The ruling Communist Party’s military wing, the People’s Liberation Army, was conducting “live-fire exercises” near the Pingtan islands off Fujian province from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m., the official Xinhua News Agency said. The Maritime Safety Administration warned ships to avoid the area.
‘Those who play with fire will perish by it,’ Xi warns Biden on Taiwan
Joe Biden and China’s Xi Jinping spent more than two hours Thursday talking through the future of their complicated relationship, with the flashpoint of Taiwan once again emerging as a key point of tension.
According to an outline of the call released by Beijing, Xi emphasized China’s claim over the island, which has governed itself for decades.
“Those who play with fire will perish by it,” said the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. “It is hoped that the U.S. will be clear-eyed about this.”