- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 21, 2022

President Biden doesn’t think House Speaker Nancy Pelosi should visit Taiwan, a sharp break with his congressional ally that signals fears of provoking China.

China had pledged severe countermeasures if Mrs. Pelosi, California Democrat, visited the self-governing island that Beijing considers to be a breakaway province.

“The military thinks it’s not a good idea right now, but I don’t know what the status of it is,” Mr. Biden told reporters upon his return from a Massachusetts trip late Wednesday.

Mr. Biden also signaled he will be talking to Chinese President Xi Jinping soon.

“I think I’ll be talking to President Xi within the next 10 days,” he told reporters on the tarmac at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland.

U.S. leaders support Taiwan’s right to democratic self-rule but typically take a careful diplomatic stance, known as “strategic ambiguity,” about its formal status.

SEE ALSO: CIA chief: China set for takeover of Taiwan in next few years

The Chinese Foreign Ministry said Tuesday that it would take “resolute and strong measures” if Mrs. Pelosi heads to the island in August.

Mr. Biden’s insinuation that she should stay home drew a rebuke from Republicans who had offered unusual praise for the speaker for deciding to visit Taiwan.

“This pathetic self-deterrence is a mistake, and it will invite more aggression,” Sen. Tom Cotton, Arkansas Republican, said Thursday.

Mrs. Pelosi, who is second in line for the presidency, was scheduled to visit Taiwan in April but had to postpone the trip after she tested positive for COVID-19.

The California Democrat said Thursday that she does not talk publicly about her travel plans. 

“It’s a security issue,” she said. “You’ll never even hear me say if I’m going to London, because it is a security issue. And so, I won’t be discussing that [Taiwan] now.”

SEE ALSO: House GOP renews calls to support Taiwan amid reports of Pelosi visit

She also told reporters at her weekly press conference, “I think what the president was saying is that maybe the military was afraid our plane would get shot down or something like that by the Chinese. I don’t know exactly. I didn’t see it. I didn’t hear it. You’re telling me, and I’ve heard it anecdotally, but I haven’t heard it from the president.”

Mrs. Pelosi said that the most important step the U.S. could take to deter China from attacking Taiwan would be to show support for Taiwan.

“I also think none of us has ever said we were for independence when it comes to Taiwan,” she said. “That’s up to Taiwan to decide.”

It is not clear what steps China might take if Mrs. Pelosi visits, but it could send more military flights into the region or bully ships in the South China Sea.

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 island’s formal independence and foreign allies — principally the U.S. — from coming to its aid more than 70 years after the sides split amid civil war and the communists’ takeover of China.

• Tom Howell Jr. can be reached at thowell@washingtontimes.com.

• Kerry Picket can be reached at kpicket@washingtontimes.com.

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