China would take “resolute and strong measures” should US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi proceed with reported plans to visit Taiwan, the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs said on Tuesday.
Pelosi, who is second in line to the US presidency, is due to visit the nation next month, the Financial Times has reported.
She was originally scheduled to visit in April, but had to postpone after she tested positive for COVID-19.
Pelosi would be the highest-ranking US lawmaker to visit Taiwan since her predecessor as speaker, Newt Gingrich, visited the nation 25 years ago.
China has vowed to annex Taiwan by force if necessary, and has advertised that threat by flying warplanes near Taiwanese airspace and holding military exercises based on invasion scenarios.
It says those actions are aimed at deterring advocates of the nation’s formal independence and foreign allies — principally the US — from coming to its aid.
A visit by Pelosi would “severely undermine China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, gravely impact the foundation of China-US relations and send a seriously wrong signal to Taiwan independence forces,” Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Zhao Lijian (趙立堅) told a daily briefing.
“If the US were to insist on going down the wrong path, China will take resolute and strong measures to safeguard its sovereignty and territorial integrity,” Zhao said.
White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre declined to comment on Pelosi’s expected visit to Taiwan.
Jean-Pierre said the US’ support for Taiwan remained “rock solid,” while reiterating the US’ long-standing commitment to the “one China” policy that recognizes Beijing as the government of China, but allows informal relations and defense ties with Taipei.
China in the past few days has also ratcheted up its rhetoric over US arms sales to Taiwan, demanding the cancelation of a deal worth about US$108 million that would boost Taiwan’s armed forces’ chances of survival against its much bigger foe.
China has the world’s largest standing military, with an increasingly sophisticated navy and a huge inventory of missiles pointed across the Taiwan Strait.
“The Chinese People’s Liberation Army ... will resolutely thwart any form of interference by external forces and separatist plots of ‘Taiwan independence,’” the Chinese Ministry of National Defense said in a statement posted on its Web site on Tuesday.
While Washington maintains a policy of “strategic ambiguity” over whether it would defend Taiwan in a conflict with China, US law requires it must ensure the nation has the means to defend itself and consider threats to its security as matters of “grave concern.”
Washington maintains only unofficial relations with Taiwan in deference to Beijing, but is Taipei’s strongest political ally and source of defensive arms.
Zhao gave no details about what potential actions China might take in response to Pelosi’s visit, but Beijing has generally used military flights and war games to indicate its discontent.
Chinese pilots have also been accused of aggressive action toward surveillance aircraft from the US and its allies operating in international airspace off the Chinese coast, while using lasers and other methods to harass foreign warships in the South China Sea.
China’s most serious threat against Taiwan came in 1995-1996, when it held military exercises, and lobbed missiles into waters north and south of Taiwan in response to a visit to the US by then-president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝).
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