House Speaker Kevin McCarthy is planning to travel to Taiwan later this year. Chinese analysts warn that this will trigger a fresh escalation of bilateral tensions that soared following then-Speaker Nancy Pelosi‘s trip in 2022.
Capitol Hill sources confirmed Monday that Mr. McCarthy is intent on making the trip but declined to comment on specific timing, although there were reports that the Pentagon has already begun drafting plans to contain any security blowback.
An official directly involved in the planning told Punchbowl News on Monday that the California Republican speaker’s trip is expected to take place sometime in the spring and that the U.S. military is in the early stages of preparations.
Mr. McCarthy first signaled last July that he would visit Taiwan if he became speaker. The trip would symbolize the new House GOP majority’s support for the democratically run Taiwan, which China’s communist government considers a breakaway province.
Heading a congressional delegation, Mrs. Pelosi, California Democrat, became the highest-ranking American official to visit Taiwan in a quarter-century. Beijing responded with a series of aerial and naval maneuvers of unprecedented score in the waters around Taiwan.
The Communist Party-aligned Global Times newspaper in Beijing has already published commentary articles warning Mr. McCarthy not to follow Mrs. Pelosi‘s lead. “If McCarthy does visit Taiwan in 2023,” one article said last week, “China-U.S. relations will witness another shock comparable to or even worse than that in August 2022 when Pelosi visited Taiwan.”
While hostility and suspicion of a rising China can be found in both parties on Capitol Hill, the newly GOP-controlled House has signaled a desire to push an even more confrontational policy toward Beijing.
House Republicans recently set up a select committee on China with some Democratic support and have been vocal about defending Taiwan‘s right to self-determination.
Mr. McCarthy has tapped Rep. Mike Gallagher, Wisconsin Republican, to head the new select committee. Mr. Gallagher told The Washington Times in a recent interview that Washington should be focused on ramping up U.S. defensive assets in and around Taiwan.
War-game simulations carried out for the Pentagon over the years by private think tanks repeatedly show Beijing triumphing in a direct clash over Taiwan, with U.S. and allied forces too small and too far away in a crisis.
“I have serious concerns about our near-term deterrent posture over Taiwan,” Mr. Gallagher told The Times.
A McCarthy trip to Taiwan would likely spark a repeat of tensions that followed Mrs. Pelosi‘s visit in August 2022. Republicans offered rare praise for Mrs. Pelosi at the time. However, President Biden was more cautious, highlighting the Pentagon’s wariness and saying the longstanding “one China” policy fudging the question of Taiwan‘s ultimate status remained intact.
Under the policy, Washington has long acknowledged Beijing’s position that Taiwan is part of China, even though the U.S. maintains informal diplomatic relations and substantial defense ties with the island democracy and does not technically recognize Chinese sovereignty over it.
Taiwanese officials, meanwhile, have spent recent months sounding alarm bells over China’s ramped-up military exercises. Taiwanese Foreign Minister Joseph Wu warned in September that China could attack the island in 2023, asserting that expanded Chinese missile tests and other military moves in the wake of Mrs. Pelosi‘s visit were clear signals that Beijing was practicing for a “future invasion.”
Taipei is, however, likely to embrace a visit by Mr. McCarthy, although Taiwan‘s official news service reported in November that Mr. Wu had told a legislative session at the time that no official contact had yet been made regarding the timing of such a visit.
Mr. McCarthy telegraphed his own plans back in July, telling reporters he wanted to head a congressional delegation to the island. “I’d love to do it as speaker,” he said at the time.
• Ben Wolfgang contributed to this story.