Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-California, landed in Taiwan Tuesday as part of her tour of Asia, ignoring threats from China and warnings from President Joe Biden.
Pelosi’s stop in Taiwan has caused Chinese leaders to issue warnings that measures will be taken if she does visit the island and that “As for what measures, if she dares to go, then let’s wait and see.”
On Monday, Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijan warned of the “egregious political impact” of Pelosi’s visit.
“We would like to tell the US once again that China is standing by, and the Chinese People’s Liberation Army will never sit idly by. China will take resolute responses and strong countermeasures to defend its sovereignty and territorial integrity.”
While it was leaked that Pelosi would visit Taiwan during a trip to Asia, as of Monday she did not have it on her official schedule. The Wall Street Journal reported that Pelosi was going ahead with a stop in the country late on Tuesday local time.
Why does Pelosi’s trip upset the Chinese? Here’s what we know now.
Why is Pelosi going to Taiwan?
Pelosi, who has been a harsh critic of China’s human rights practices, said last week that it is “important for us to show support for Taiwan.”
Taiwan is a self-governing island democracy that came into being in 1949 after anti-communist forces retreated from China’s mainland. Those on the mainland became the People’s Republic of China following the Chinese civil war. Those in Taiwan retained the name the Republic of China.
Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen has supported policies like those favored by Pelosi such as support for same-sex marriage and a strong social security net.
Taiwan has long enjoyed strong bipartisan support in Congress.
Why doesn’t China want her to go?
China sees Taiwan as its own territory and a visit to the island by Pelosi, who is second in line to the presidency behind Vice President Kamala Harris, as lending legitimacy to the claim that Taiwan is a nation separate from China.
Chinese leaders have warned the country will respond forcefully if Pelosi proceeds with the visit.
China claims Taiwan belongs to China and has said it will be annexed by force if necessary. As The Associated Press reported, its military buildup in recent years has largely been oriented toward such a mission.
Beijing objects to all official contact between Taipei and any other country, especially the U.S.
While experts say it’s unlikely China would use force to prevent Pelosi’s U.S. government plane from landing in Taipei, the AP reports, its response remains unpredictable. China has threatened unspecified “resolute and strong measures” should Pelosi visit Taiwan.
“It is hoped that the U.S. will be clear-eyed about this. The U.S. should honor the one-China principle,” the government statement said.
Chinese President Xi Jinping warned Biden in a phone call July 28 that “Those who play with fire will perish by it.”
What is the One China policy?
The One China Policy is a diplomatic acknowledgement of China’s claim that there is only one Chinese government, and that government is on China’s mainland.
The U.S. and almost all other nations recognize China rather than Taiwan in diplomatic relations, though the U.S. also maintains a relationship with Taiwan.
In 1979, Congress passed and President Jimmy Carter signed into law the Taiwan Relations Act. The act defined the non-diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Taiwan.
The U.S. has a “robust unofficial” relationship with Taiwan, according to the U.S. State Department, that includes the sale of arms to Taiwan.
Does the Biden administration support Pelosi’s trip?
The White House has not given full-throated support to Pelosi’s decision to take the trip to Taiwan, but rather has taken a public position that Pelosi’s trip is her business.
However, some media outlets report that behind the scenes the White House had hoped Pelosi would change her mind about going to Taiwan.
Ret. Admiral John Kirby, the National Security Council coordinator for communications, reiterated Monday that Pelosi is a member of Congress and the White House does not direct the travel of members of Congress.
“We gave her advice and counsel,” Kirby said.
Biden told reporters last month that “the military thinks it’s not a good idea right now.”
Kirby said Monday that in his call with President Xi, Biden “made clear that Congress is an independent branch of government and that Speaker Pelosi makes her own decisions, as other members of Congress do, about their overseas travel.
“That was made clear.”
Do Republicans support the trip?
Republican members of the House and Senate have come out in support of Pelosi’s trip.
“It is Speaker Pelosi’s decision alone on whether or not to travel to Taiwan, not any other country,” said Rep. Darin LaHood, R-Illinois. “In our democratic system -- we operate with separate but equal branches of government.”
“It is inappropriate for foreign governments, including the Chinese government, to attempt to influence the ability or the right to travel for the speaker, members of Congress, or other US government officials to Taiwan or anywhere else around the world,” he added.
“If I were the speaker, I’d be going,” said Rep. Pete Sessions, R-Texas.
Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., who previously served with Pelosi in the House, said: “If she wants to go, I certainly think she should go. And I think she should be more motivated to go now that she’s been discouraged, and colleagues should join her.”
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