Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia — US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi arrived in Malaysia on Tuesday for the second leg of an Asian tour overshadowed by an expected stop in Taiwan that will escalate tensions with China. Beijing claims the self-governing island as its own territory.
The plane carrying Pelosi and her delegation landed at an Air Force base amid tight security. He invited Lower House speaker Azhar Azizan Harun to parliament and adjourned for lunch with Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob.
Although there have been no official announcements, local media in Taiwan have reported that Pelosi will arrive in Taipei on Tuesday night, becoming the highest-ranking US elected official to visit Taiwan in more than 25 years. The United Daily News, Liberty Times and China Times – Taiwan’s three largest national newspapers – cited unnamed sources who said he will fly to Taipei and stay overnight after visiting Malaysia.
Reuters news agency, citing flight-tracking website Flightradar24 and witnesses, says the US Air Force One plane Pelosi flew to Malaysia took off from Kuala Lumpur, but its destination and whether Pelosi or her delegation were on the plane were not known. clear.
China, which views Taiwan as a renegade province that will be annexed by force if necessary, has warned of repercussions,if Pelosi goes ahead with the visit. China’s threats of retaliation have raised concerns of a new crisis in the Taiwan Strait, which divides the two sides, that could disrupt global markets and supply chains.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hua Chunying said on Tuesday that Beijing was in communication with Washington about Pelosi’s expected visit to Taiwan, according to Reuters.
Agence France-Presse reports that Chunying also warned that the US would “pay the price” if Pelosi visits Taiwan.
“The US side will bear the responsibility and pay the price for undermining China’s security sovereignty interests,” Agence France-Presse said.
The White House decried Beijing’s rhetoric on Monday, saying the US was not interested in deepening tensions with China and “will not take the bait or engage in rattling.”
White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby emphasized that the decision on whether to visit the self-governing island was ultimately Pelosi’s. He noted that members of Congress have regularly visited Taiwan over the years.
Kirby said government officials are concerned that Beijing could use the visit as an excuse to take provocative retaliation, including military action, such as firing missiles into or around the Taiwan Strait, or encroachment on the island’s airspace and to conduct large-scale naval exercises in the strait.
“Simply put, there is no reason for Beijing to turn a potential visit consistent with longstanding U.S. policy into some kind of crisis or use it as a pretext to increase aggressive military activity in or around the Taiwan Strait.” , Kirby said.
US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken also urged China to “act responsibly” should Pelosi proceed with the visit.
“If the speaker decides to visit and China tries to create some kind of crisis or otherwise escalate tensions, that will be all about Beijing,” he told reporters at UN headquarters in New York. “We are looking for them, should he decide to visit, to act responsibly and not engage in any escalation in the future.”
American officials saidand assets in the Indo-Pacific region if Pelosi visits Taiwan. The aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan and its strike group were in the Philippine Sea on Monday, according to officials who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss military operations.
The Reagan, the cruiser USS Antietam and the destroyer USS Higgins left Singapore after a port visit and moved north to their home port in Japan. The aircraft carrier has an array of aircraft, including F/A-18 fighter jets and helicopters, as well as sophisticated radar systems and other weapons.
Taiwan and China split in 1949 after the Communists won a civil war on the mainland. The US maintains informal relations and defense ties with Taiwan, even though it recognizes Beijing as the government of China.
Beijing sees formal US contact with Taiwan as an encouragement to make permanent the island’s decades-long de facto independence, a step US leaders say they do not support. Pelosi, head of one of the three branches of the US government, would be the highest-ranking elected US official to visit Taiwan since then-Speaker Newt Gingrich in 1997.
Pelosi kicked off her Asian tour in Singapore on Monday, but her supposed visit to Taiwan has sparked unrest in the region.
Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong “stressed the importance of stable US-China relations for regional peace and security” during talks with Pelosi, the city-state’s foreign ministry said. This was echoed by Japanese Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi in Tokyo, who said strong ties between the two rival powers “are extremely important to the international community as well.”
The Philippines urged the US and China to be “responsible actors” in the region. “It is important for the US and China to ensure continuous communication to avoid any miscalculation and further escalation of tensions,” said Foreign Affairs spokeswoman Teresita Daza.
China is steadily increasing diplomatic and military pressure on Taiwan. China severed all contact with Taiwan’s government in 2016 after President Tsai Ing-wen refused to support her claim that the island and mainland together form a single Chinese nation, with the communist regime in Beijing the only legitimate government.
On Thursday, Pelosi will meet with South Korean National Assembly Speaker Kim Jin-pyo in Seoul for talks on security in the Indo-Pacific region, economic cooperation and, according to Kim’s office. Pelosi is also scheduled to visit Japan, but it is unclear when she will go there.