Washington should not allow Beijing to decide the travel schedules of US officials, former US secretary of defense Mark Esper said yesterday in Taipei, after US President Joe Biden said that US military officials believe it is “not a good idea” for US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi to visit Taiwan.
Biden’s comment came in an exchange with reporters a day after the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs said it would take “resolute and strong measures” should Pelosi proceed with reported plans to visit Taiwan in the coming weeks.
The Financial Times on Tuesday reported that Pelosi planned to move forward with a previously postponed visit to Taipei next month. Her office and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Taipei have not confirmed the report.
“Well, I think that the military thinks it’s not a good idea right now,” Biden said in response to a question about Pelosi’s reported trip. “But I don’t know what the status of it is.”
The president stopped short of suggesting that Pelosi not travel to Taiwan.
Pelosi was originally scheduled to visit in April, but had to postpone after she tested positive for COVID-19. She would be the highest-ranking US lawmaker to visit Taiwan since former US House speaker Newt Gingrich visited in 1997.
Regarding Biden’s comments, Esper, who is visiting Taiwan, told reporters in Taipei that Beijing should not have any say over the travel schedules of US officials.
“I don’t think we should allow China to dictate the travel schedules of American officials,” he told a news conference.
The incident again highlighted the problem with Washington’s long-standing “one China” policy, which has “run its course,” and needs to be “updated and modernized,” he said.
“I think it’s important that American political leaders visit Taiwan, understand the situation here, have a chance to meet with Taiwan’s political leadership, and get a better sense of what’s happening and how things are viewed from here in Taipei, less than 110 miles [177km] from the [Chinese] ‘mainland,’ and get to make their own assessment,” he said.
It is important that Washington develops a fresh perspective concerning its cross-strait policy, he added.
“And the simple fact that we’re worried about what China may or may not do with regard to the speaker of the House visiting is a case in point that we need to relook [at] our policy,” he said.
Esper was US defense head from 2019 to 2020 under then-US president Donald Trump.
Leading a delegation from the Atlantic Council, Esper arrived in Taipei on Monday for a four-day visit to meet with government officials and other politicians to discuss trade, diplomacy, economic issues and security.
Regarding Biden’s comments, Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokeswoman Joanne Ou (歐江安) reiterated the ministry’s stance that it had not received any information about a planned visit by Pelosi, adding that it always welcomes visits from US lawmakers.
China has expressed its strong opposition to Pelosi’s rumored trip, with Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Zhao Lijian (趙立堅) urging Washington to “stop creating tensions over the Taiwan Strait.
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