SINGAPORE: The White House on Monday warned China against overreacting to a trip by US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to Taiwan, saying she would have every right to visit the self-ruled island despite Beijing viewing it as a highly provocative challenge.
China need not turn any visit by Pelosi into a “crisis,” White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told reporters, even as he warned that Beijing may be “positioning” itself for a show of military strength around the island.
Media reports have said that Pelosi, currently on an official Asia tour, will stop off in Taiwan and meet President Tsai Ing-wen on Wednesday — if so, the highest-level US visit to Taipei in decades.
Beijing, which views Taiwan as its territory, has reacted furiously to the idea, warning President Joe Biden that his administration was playing “with fire” and announcing a series of live-fire military drills in the Taiwan Straits.
While the White House and State Department are both understood to be opposed to Pelosi’s trip, Kirby made it clear that the speaker — who is second in line to the US presidency — was entitled to go where she pleased.
“The speaker has the right to visit Taiwan,” he told reporters, adding: “There is no reason for Beijing to turn a potential visit consistent with longstanding US policies into some sort of crisis.”
Kirby cited intelligence that China was preparing possible military provocations that could include firing missiles in the Taiwan Strait or “large scale” incursions into Taiwan airspace.
Pelosi kicked her trip off Monday with a stop in Singapore, where Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong urged her at a meeting to strive for “stable” ties with Beijing.
Her itinerary also includes Malaysia, South Korea and Japan, but the prospect of a Taiwan visit has dominated attention.