China Warns Taiwan Visit by Pelosi Would Have ‘Grave Impact’

(Bloomberg) -- China vowed to take a “resolute and strong” response to any Taiwan visit by US House speaker Nancy Pelosi, setting the stage for a possible showdown over the reported landmark trip.

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Pelosi’s plan to lead a delegation to Taipei next month, which was reported by the Financial Times, would have a “grave impact” on US-China ties, Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said Tuesday. China had issued a similar warning about a planned Pelosi visit in April, before she contracted Covid-19 and canceled the trip.

“China firmly opposes this as it will have a grave impact on the political foundation of bilateral relations,” Zhao told a regular news briefing in Beijing. “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. All the ensuing consequences shall be borne by the US side.”

No sitting US speaker has visited Taiwan since Newt Gingrich traveled to the island in 1997.

The warning comes as top aides to US President Joe Biden and Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping engage in talks in preparation for a possible conversation between the two leaders. China regularly protests foreign officials’ visit to Taipei as a violation of diplomatic agreements to avoid formal recognition of Taiwan, which Beijing claims as its own territory.

China has ramped up military activity around Taiwan to signal its displeasure with past high-profile visits. Hu Xijin, a commentator and former editor-in-chief of the Communist Party’s Global Times newspaper, said in a tweet Tuesday that Pelosi “will also bear historical responsibility for possibly triggering a military conflict in the Taiwan Strait.”

Taipei has seen wave of such trips in recent years, as the US and others push back against an isolation campaign by Beijing. Xi is seeking to pressure Taiwanese leader Tsai Ing-wen over her refusal to accept that both sides are part of “one China.”

On Tuesday, European Parliament Vice President Nicola Beer began a three-day visit to Taipei -- leading the most senior EU legislative delegation to visit Taiwan. Beer told reporters after her arrival that the “family of democracies” need to support Taiwan after China’s crackdown on Hong Kong’s opposition and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

No ‘Blind Eye’

“We won’t have a blind eye on China’s threat to Taiwan,” Beer said. “Europe was late for Hong Kong. We won’t be late for Taiwan. There is no room for Chinese aggression in democratic Taiwan. For the moment, we witness war in Europe. We do not want to witness war in Asia. And so now it’s the moment to stand firm on the side of Taiwan.”

Zhao, the Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman, said the European parliament’s actions had “poisoned the atmosphere” of EU-China ties. “We urge the EU side to earnestly abide by the one-China principle, be prudent on Taiwan related issues to avoid serious disruptions to bilateral relations,” he said.

China’s refusal to condemn Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has complicated its efforts to shore up relations with the EU. Top European leaders haven’t responded to an invitation from Xi to meet him later this year in Beijing, the South China Morning Post reported, citing a person familiar with the matter. Zhao dismissed the SCMP report on Tuesday, calling it “fake news.”

Former US Defense Secretary Mark Esper was also in Taiwan this week as part of a trip backed by the Atlantic Council. In Taipei, Esper said it was time to move away from the US’s policy of “strategic ambiguity,” in which generations of Washington policymakers have avoided a clear commitment to defend Taiwan from any Chinese attack.

“The greatest challenge facing the democracies in the West today is not in Russia. It is here in Asia, where China continues to challenge the rule-based international order that threatens freedom-loving people throughout the region,” Esper said. “Taiwan is on the front lines of this epic contest.”

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