Nancy Pelosi arrives in Malaysia as tensions rise over possible Taiwan visit

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Nancy Pelosi arrives in Malaysia as tensions rise over possible Taiwan visit
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US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi arrived in Malaysia on Tuesday for the second leg of an Asian tour that has been overshadowed by an expected stop in Taiwan, which would escalate tensions with China.

Ms Pelosi met lower house Speaker Azhar Azizan Harun in Parliament and then Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob.

While there have been no official announcements, local media in Taiwan reported that Ms Pelosi will arrive in Taipei on Tuesday night, becoming the highest-ranking elected US official to visit in more than 25 years.

China, which regards Taiwan as a renegade province to be annexed by force if necessary, has warned of repercussions, saying its military will "never sit idly by" if Ms Pelosi pushes ahead with the visit.

China's threats of retaliation have driven concerns of a new crisis in the Taiwan Strait, which separates the two sides, that could upset global markets and supply chains.

On Monday the White House decried Beijing's rhetoric, saying the US has no interest in deepening tensions with China and "will not take the bait or engage in saber rattling".

White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby underscored that the decision on whether to visit the self-ruled island was ultimately Ms Pelosi's. He noted that members of Congress have routinely visited Taiwan over the years.

Mr Kirby said administration officials are concerned Beijing could use the visit as an excuse to take provocative retaliatory steps, including military action such as firing missiles in the Taiwan Strait or around Taiwan.

"Put simply, there is no reason for Beijing to turn a potential visit consistent with long-standing US policy into some sort of crisis or use it as a pretext to increase aggressive military activity in or around the Taiwan Strait," Mr Kirby said.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken also urged China to "act responsibly" in the event that Pelosi proceeds with the visit.

"If the speaker does decide to visit, and China tries to create some kind of a crisis or otherwise escalate tensions, that would be entirely on Beijing," he told reporters at UN headquarters in New York.

"We are looking for them, in the event she decides to visit, to act responsibly and not to engage in any escalation going forward."

Taiwan and China split in 1949 after the Communists won a civil war on the mainland. The US maintains informal relations and defence ties with Taiwan even as it recognises Beijing as the government of China.

Beijing sees official American contact with Taiwan as encouragement to make the island's decades-old de facto independence permanent, a step US leaders say they do not support.

Ms Pelosi, head of one of three branches of the US government, would be the highest-ranking elected American official to visit Taiwan since then-Speaker Newt Gingrich in 1997.

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