Island tour

Pelosi lands in Singapore to kick off her Asia tour

WASHINGTON (AP) — The White House on Monday denounced Beijing’s rhetoric about a planned visit by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to Taiwan, promising that the United States “will not bite the bait or engage in sounds of saber” and have no interest in increasing tensions with China.

White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby stressed that the decision whether or not to visit the self-governing island that China claims as its own is ultimately up to Pelosi. He noted that members of Congress have visited Taiwan regularly over the years.

Kirby said administration officials feared Beijing would use the visit as an excuse to take provocative retaliatory measures, including military actions such as firing missiles into the Taiwan Strait or around Taiwan.

“Put simply, there is no reason for Beijing to turn a potential visit in line with long-standing US policy into some kind of crisis or use it as a pretext to increase aggressive military activity in or around the Strait. of Taiwan,” Kirby said.

The Biden administration pushed back against Beijing as Pelosi spoke to officials in Singapore on Monday at the start of his Asian tour.

Although there was no official announcement, local media in Taiwan reported that Pelosi will arrive on Tuesday evening, making her the highest ranking American to visit in more than 25 years. The United Daily News, Liberty Times and China Times – Taiwan’s three largest national newspapers – quoted unidentified sources as saying she would arrive in Taipei after visiting Malaysia and spend the night there.

Talk of such a visit sparks fury in Beijing, which considers Taiwan its own territory and has repeatedly warned of “serious consequences” if the reported trip continues.

“If Pelosi insists on surrendering to Taiwan, China will take resolute and strong measures to defend its sovereignty and territorial integrity,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said in Beijing, without giving details.

“Those who play with fire will perish by it,” Zhao said. “We would once again like to put the United States on notice that we are fully prepared for any eventuality and that the PLA will never stand idly by.” The People’s Liberation Army is the Chinese army.

Chinese President Xi Jinping also warned the United States against interfering in Beijing’s relationship with the island during a phone call last week with President Joe Biden.

China has steadily increased diplomatic and military pressure on Taiwan. Threats of retaliation for a visit by Pelosi have raised fears of a fresh crisis in the Taiwan Strait, which separates the two sides, that could upend global markets and supply chains.

Beijing sees official US contact with Taiwan as encouragement to make the island’s decades-old de facto independence permanent, 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 elected US official to visit Taiwan since then-President Newt Gingrich in 1997.

The Biden administration tried to assure Beijing that there was no reason to “sell hands” and that if such a visit took place, it would signal no change in US policy. Administration officials on Monday called on China to moderate the rhetoric, stressing there was no reason for Beijing to escalate tensions in the Taiwan Strait over the potential visit.

“What I can say is this: It’s really a precedent in the sense that previous speakers have been to Taiwan, many members of Congress have been to Taiwan, including this year,” said Secretary of State Antony Blinken. “And so, if the speaker decides to surrender and China tries to create some kind of crisis or escalate tensions, that would be entirely on Beijing.”

Taiwan and China separated in 1949 after the communists won a civil war on the mainland. Both sides say they are one country but disagree on which government is entitled to national leadership. They have no official relations but are linked by billions of dollars in trade and investment.

The United States transferred diplomatic recognition from Taipei to Beijing in 1979, but maintains informal relations with the island. Washington is obligated by the Taiwan Relations Act, a federal law, to ensure that Taiwan has the means to defend itself.

Washington’s “one China policy” indicates that it takes no position on the status of the two sides but wants their dispute to be resolved peacefully. Beijing promotes an alternative “one China principle” that says they are one country and the Communist Party is its leader.

“We expect to see Beijing continue to use inflammatory rhetoric and misinformation in the coming days,” Kirby said. “The United States, on the other hand, will act with transparency.”

On Monday, Pelosi met with Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, President Halimah Yacob and other Cabinet members.

Singapore’s foreign ministry said Lee welcomed the US commitment to strong engagement in the region, and the two sides discussed ways to deepen US economic involvement through initiatives such as the Indo-Pacific economic framework.

Lee and Pelosi also discussed the war in Ukraine, tensions around Taiwan and mainland China and climate change, he said in a statement. Lee “stressed the importance of stable relations between the United States and China for regional peace and security,” he added, in an apparent allusion to reports of Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan.

Pelosi said she was traveling to Singapore, Malaysia, South Korea and Japan as part of a tour to discuss trade, the COVID-19 pandemic, climate change, security and “democratic governance”.

Pelosi is due to meet South Korean National Assembly Speaker Kim Jin Pyo in Seoul on Thursday for talks on Indo-Pacific security, economic cooperation and the climate crisis, Kim’s office said in a statement. a statement.

He declined to provide further details on her itinerary, including when she will arrive in South Korea and how long she will stay. Pelosi’s schedule for Wednesday remains unclear and there are no details on when she will travel to Japan.

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Ng reported in Kuala Lumpur and Soo reported in Hong Kong. Associated Press writers Huizhong Wu in Taipei, Taiwan, Kim Hyung-jin in Seoul, South Korea, and Joshua Boak, Matthew Lee in Washington contributed to this report.

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