Beijing warns US will 'bear all consequences' if House Speaker Nancy Pelosi visits Taiwan in August

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Beijing has warned that the United States will "bear all consequences" and face "forceful measures" from Beijing if US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi visits Taiwan as reported.

The Financial Times said Pelosi would take a delegation to Taiwan next month. It would be the first visit by a US speaker of the house to the self-ruled island in 25 years.

Pelosi would be the most senior US lawmaker to visit the island since one of her predecessors as speaker, Republican Newt Gingrich, travelled there in 1997.

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The lawmaker and her delegation will visit Japan, Singapore, Indonesia and Malaysia. Pelosi will also spend time in Hawaii at the headquarters of US Indo-Pacific command. But the report said it was still possible the trip could be called off.

Speaking in Beijing, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian called on the US not to arrange Pelosi's visit to Taiwan, which he said would "seriously undermine China's sovereignty and territorial integrity".

"If the US stubbornly sticks to this, China will definitely take resolute and forceful measures to firmly defend its national sovereignty and territorial integrity," he said.

"The United States must be fully responsible for all the consequences caused by this."

Taiwan's foreign ministry spokeswoman Joanne Ou said the ministry had not received any information about Pelosi's visit.

"The foreign ministry and its representative offices in the US have actively promoted exchanges through invitations of personnel from various US sectors. If there is any related development [about Pelosi's visit], we will announce it at an appropriate time," she said.

Pelosi originally planned to visit Taiwan, which Beijing regards as a breakaway province that can be taken by force if necessary, in April. But that trip was postponed when she tested positive for Covid-19.

At the time, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said the trip was a "malicious provocation". In early July, Wang told US Secretary of State Antony Blinken that the US should not send any signals of support for Taiwan independence.

"The US must not underestimate the firm determination of the Chinese people to defend territorial sovereignty, and must not make subversive mistakes that ruin peace across the Taiwan Strait," Wang was quoted by Xinhua as saying in the talks with Blinken.

Other Chinese diplomatic observers said in April that Beijing would likely impose sanctions against Pelosi, step up military exercises over Taiwan and suspend cooperation on climate change with the US.

The Financial Times reported there were divisions in the US administration over whether Pelosi should visit Taiwan, with some believing it would have been easier to justify a visit in April, just after the start of the Ukraine war.

Pelosi's office would not confirm if she was planning to visit Taiwan or Asia.

Washington is building closer ties with Taiwan. Former US defence chief Mark Esper is currently making a four-day trip to the island.

On Tuesday, European Parliament Vice-President Nicola Beer led the most senior EU legislative delegation for a three-day visit to Taipei. Beer told reporters after her arrival that the "family of democracies" needed to support Taiwan after Beijing's crackdown on Hong Kong and Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

"We won't have a blind eye on China's threat to Taiwan," Beer said. "Europe was late for Hong Kong. We won't be late for Taiwan. There is no room for Chinese aggression in democratic Taiwan. For the moment, we witness war in Europe. We do not want to witness war in Asia. And so now it's the moment to stand firm on the side of Taiwan."

Pelosi, as House Speaker, is the third-most senior American official in the US.

Zhang Baohui, a political science professor at Lingnan University in Hong Kong said China was "extremely dissatisfied, of course, because the trip would make her the more senior US official to visit Taiwan".

Former US health secretary Alex Azar became the highest-ranking official to visit the island in 2020, ostensibly to discuss Covid-19 cooperation.

A visit by Pelosi would signal a fundamental breakthrough in US-Taiwan ties because it would expand their exchange from a narrow set of issues to diplomacy and military, Zhang said, unlike official visits during the Donald Trump administration.

But Zhang said Pelosi's visit would not affect a potential summit between Xi and Biden. "China might be angry but it knows that the trajectory of US-China relations is decided by the US.

"As the rising power, China is still motivated to, as far as possible, maintain friendly ties, expand cooperation and stabilise the relationship."

Additional reporting by Jack Lau

This article originally appeared in the South China Morning Post (SCMP), the most authoritative voice reporting on China and Asia for more than a century. For more SCMP stories, please explore the SCMP app or visit the SCMP's Facebook and Twitter pages. Copyright © 2022 South China Morning Post Publishers Ltd. All rights reserved.

Copyright (c) 2022. South China Morning Post Publishers Ltd. All rights reserved.