WASHINGTON, Aug 3 — The Biden administration strongly defended House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan on Tuesday amid China’s ongoing fiery response, saying the trip is consistent with longstanding United States policy and is “no reason” for Beijing to further escalate tensions.
White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said the Chinese response thus far has been “unfortunately right in line with what we had anticipated,” noting Washington expects China to be preparing to “react over a longer-term horizon,” reported Anadolu Agency.
Some of the actions the US expects China to take include additional large-scale military exercises, carrying out flights across the sensitive median line in the Taiwan Strait “and using economic coercion.”
“There’s no reason for China to take what is perfectly legitimate and consistent travel by the speaker of the House and turn it into some pretext for amping up the tensions, or creating some sort of crisis or conflict,” Kirby told reporters at the White House.
“The United States will not seek and does not want a crisis. We are prepared to manage what Beijing chooses to do. At the same time, we will not engage in saber rattling. We will continue to support Taiwan, defend a free and open Indo-Pacific, and seek to maintain communication with Beijing,” he added.
Asked if US President Joe Biden supports Pelosi’s decision, Kirby said “he respects the speaker’s decision to travel to Taiwan.”
China’s Foreign Ministry early Wednesday local time (Tuesday night GMT), summoned the US envoy to Beijing, Nicholas Burns, over Pelosi’s visit.
China’s Vice Foreign Minister Xie Feng told Burns that “China will take necessary and resolute countermeasures, and we mean what we say,” according to the state-run Global Times.
Despite a string of warnings, including military action, Pelosi flew to Taiwan from Malaysia on Tuesday.
Pelosi was received by Taiwanese Foreign Minister Joseph Wu as she landed at Taipei Songshan Airport around 10.44 pm local time (1444GMT). Two hotels have been booked to host the accompanying delegation of US lawmakers and officials.
This came as Beijing ratcheted up its messages urging the senior US lawmaker to abandon her trip, which was not on the official agenda of the speaker’s four-nation Asia tour.
Pelosi, the first US House of Representatives speaker to visit Taiwan in 25 years, will meet Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen and also engage with Taiwanese lawmakers.
In 1997, Republican Newt Gingrich was the last House speaker to visit the self-ruled island, which has maintained its independence since 1949.
Soon after Pelosi landed in Taiwan, the Chinese military announced that it will hold military drills around the self-ruled island, home to over 24 million people. China views Taiwan as a “breakaway province” and has vowed to reunify it with the mainland, including by force if necessary.
The Taiwanese Defence Ministry said around 21 Chinese military aircraft entered its air defence identification zone – a buffer zone outside the country’s airspace, where it has the right to ask incoming aircraft to identify themselves.
Chinese state media released videos showing the People’s Liberation Army commencing joint military exercises “surrounding the island of Taiwan.”
The drills featured J-20 stealth fighter jets and the test firing of conventional missiles that analysts said could fly over the island.