The White House said Monday that China was apparently setting the stage to carry out “military provocations” in response to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s potential visit to Taiwan.
“China appears to be positioning itself to potentially take further action in the coming days and perhaps longer term,” White House spokesman John Kirby told reporters.
He described the escalating tensions as fueled by China, which the United States was “not threatening”, and he insisted that a potential visit by Pelosi would set a precedent and would not “change the status quo. concerning China and Taiwan.
Under the “One China” policy, the United States recognizes Beijing as the Chinese government and does not support an independent Taiwan, considering the issue “unsettled”, although the United States supports the island militarily autonomous and maintain informal ties.
“We, and countries around the world, believe that escalation serves no one,” Kirby said. “Beijing’s actions could have unintended consequences that only heighten tensions.”
“The world should reject all [Chinese] effort to use it to do that,” Kirby said, referring to Pelosi’s potential appearance in Taiwan.” At the same time, we will not be intimidated. We will continue to operate in the seas and skies of the Western Pacific, as we have for decades.”
Pelosi landed in Singapore early Monday local time for an Asia tour that his office says will also take him to Malaysia, South Korea and Japan. Neither his office nor the White House has confirmed his intention to visit Taiwan.
Kirby said the “potential steps” China could take in response to Pelosi’s possible visit to the island – which China claims is part of its territory – “could include military provocations, such as shooting missile operations in the Taiwan Strait or around Taiwan, operations that violate historical norms such as large-scale aerial entry into Taiwan’s Air Defense Identification Zone” or “air or naval activities that have crossed the median line; military exercises that could be highly publicized”.
He noted that the last time Beijing fired missiles into the Taiwan Strait was in 1995 and 1996.
“Some of these actions would continue on the trend lines we’ve seen for the past several years,” Kirby said, adding that “some may be of a different scope and scale.”
There could also be actions taken “in the diplomatic and economic space, … such as Beijing’s public assertions last month that the Taiwan Strait is not an international waterway.”
When asked what planning “was done in advance to ensure there would be no dangerous fallout if she did travel to Taiwan,” Kirby said he could “assure” that Pelosi would be able to “travel safely”.
“We take our commitments to security in the region very, very seriously,” Kirby later told Fox News. “And we have plenty of capacity in the area if we need it.”
During Monday’s briefing, Kirby said President Joe Biden did not speak directly with Pelosi about his trip to Asia. He also challenged a reporter who asked why Pelosi was “urged not to go”.
“I don’t know if she was pressured not to go,” Kirby said. “Who pushed her not to go?”
“The president did not speak directly with the speaker about this trip,” he said.
The reporter clarified that she asked about Biden previously saying the military didn’t think it was a good idea for Pelosi to go to Taiwan.
“The speaker makes his own decisions,” Kirby said. “And what we did was provide him with the context, the analysis, the facts [and] information so that she can make the best possible decision for each stopover, for each trip abroad.”
“We have been clear from the start that she will make her own decisions and that Congress is an independent branch of government,” he said.