Tensions between the United States and China over Taiwan are renewed

Xi Jinping warned the United States against the possible visit of Speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi to Taiwan.

Washington Correspondent

The prospect of Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan threatens to trigger a major diplomatic crisis between China and the United States. The Democratic speaker of the House of Representatives arrived in Singapore on Monday with a delegation of elected American officials for a four-day trip to Asia. He had to go to Malaysia, then South Korea and Japan. Her stop in Taiwan has not been officially confirmed or denied, but Pelosi warned that she would not provide details of her itinerary for security reasons.

Several sources in Taipei and Washington say that this high-risk visit will take place, and that the Speaker of the House may arrive on the island as early as Tuesday night. The absence of a denial can be a complete confirmation.

China has already warned the United States against a trip that could have a “severe negative effects” in Sino-American relations, promised “strong and determined measures to protect sovereignty and territorial integrity”.

“If you play with fire, you will get burned”, Chinese President Xi Jinping spoke more plainly to Joe Biden on Thursday in a lengthy phone conversation. “I hope the American side can see this clearly,” Xi added in somewhat undiplomatic language.

If you want to play with fire, you will get burned

Xi Jinping, President of China, with his American counterpart, during a long telephone conversation

“China’s rhetoric has no reason to exist”, White House National Security Council strategic affairs spokesman John Kirby said Monday. “There is no reason to take the action. It is common for congressional officials to visit Taiwan. This is fully in line with our policy outlined in the Taiwan Relations Act,” the former admiral said to CNN. He also said Pelosi’s trip was coordinated by the White House. “I’m not going to talk about security requirements, but obviously we want to make sure that when he travels abroad he does so safely, and we will make sure of that.”

Concrete signals

Both powers backed up their statements with concrete signals. China announced on Sunday that it was conducting military exercises without notice near the Pingtan Islands in Fujian province, across the Strait of Formosa, which separates Taiwan from the mainland. Air maneuvers were also announced. China”as if positioning itself“for a show of strength with”missile launch in the Taiwan Strait“, confirmed John Kirby.

The United States sent an aircraft carrier and its carrier strike group, which sailed from Singapore to the South China Sea, while making it clear that it was a planned operation.

Pelosi’s trip was announced in April, before being put back after she caught Covid. The representative from California is a longtime critic of the Chinese Communist Party. During a visit to Beijing in 1991, he unfurled a flag honoring those who died for democracy in 1989 in Tiananmen Square. He often angered Chinese authorities by meeting with the Dalai Lama, Tibet’s spiritual leader in exile, and Chinese dissidents. Recently, he expressed his support for the democracy protests in Hong Kong.

But his trip to Taiwan has the potential for greater diplomatic ramifications. The Speaker of the House, the second person in line of succession in the United States, is a personality that is symbolically more important than a simple member of Congress.

The tension created by the announcement of his visit also shows that the United States’ policy of strategic ambiguity regarding Taiwan is increasingly difficult to maintain. Willingly or not, Joe Biden himself has twice deviated from the official American position in recent months, saying that the United States is committed to coming to Taiwan’s military aid if there is an emergency. -attack China. The State Department reiterated after the fact that US policy had not changed, but these comments by the president did not escape Beijing.

President Xi Jinping’s determination to assert the People’s Republic of China’s control over Taiwan should not be underestimated.

William Burns, Director of the CIA

Joe Biden, who faces a worrying domestic economic crisis at the same time as a conflict in Europe, is happy to do without a crisis in China. The US president admitted to reporters last month that the Pentagon believes that Pelosi’s visit “Not a good idea at the moment”.

But if prudence recommends abandoning this visit, the United States will give the impression of bowing to China’s threats, while recognizing Beijing’s de facto right to veto the movements of American officials in Taiwan.

Agreement between Democrats and Republicans

Domestically, Joe Biden also risks appearing weak against China. However, support for Taiwan is one of the few issues on which Republicans and Democrats in Congress agree. Republican elected officials supported Nancy Pelosi’s visit, and some even offered to accompany her.

The last such crisis erupted in June 1995 when the president of Taiwan obtained a visa to give a speech at an American university. China conducted missile tests, and the United States sent two aircraft carriers to cross the Strait of Formosa. Twenty-seven years later, China’s military power has become more formidable, and the prospect of a blockade of Taiwan, or other repressive measures by Beijing against the island, has the Pentagon worried. . The United States also fears the scenario of a formal invasion.

“President Xi Jinping’s determination to assert the People’s Republic of China’s control over Taiwan should not be underestimated, CIA Director William Burns said last week during the Aspen Security Forum.I believe he is also determined to ensure that his armed forces have the capacity to carry out such an operation should he decide to launch it. And I think the risks are higher than ever as we approach the end of this decade. “

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