As tensions increase over a possible trip to Taiwan by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Chinese President Xi Jinping delivered a warning to President Joe Biden on Thursday.
“Public opinion shall not be violated, and if you play with fire you get burned. I hope the US side can see this clearly,” CNN quoted Xi as saying. The comment came during a call planned long before the possible Pelosi trip mushroomed into an international flashpoint.
The White House readout on the call was in much calmer language than the official Chinese state news agency cited by CNN.
“On Taiwan, President Biden underscored that the United States policy has not changed and that the United States strongly opposes unilateral efforts to change the status quo or undermine peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait,” a U.S. readout said.
Last week, media accounts said Pelosi would stop in Taiwan next week as part of congressional delegation making a swing through several Asian nations. The trip raised the hackles of Chinese officials, who insisted it should be canceled.
Biden, shifting the blame, said the U.S. military thought the trip was “not a good idea.” Pelosi has said she will not discuss her travel plans.
Taiwan has been the refuge of China’s Nationalist government since it lost the Chinese civil war in 1949. The U.S. does not extend official diplomatic recognition to Taiwan’s government, but has supported the island nation’s freedom by providing extensive military aid.
China claims Taiwan is rightfully a part of China and has become more bellicose on the issue in recent years. China’s state-run Global Times, for example, has been filled with antagonistic rhetoric about Pelosi and Taiwan.
On Tuesday, it cited Hu Xijin, a commentator for the Communist Party organ, as saying he expected to see People’s Liberation Army aircraft “flying together with Pelosi’s plane into the airspace of Taiwan island. That would set a great precedent for the PLA to patrol above the island, which would be far more meaningful than Pelosi’s visit.”
“Sooner or later, the PLA’s aircrafts will enter the airspace above Taiwan in a legitimate and righteous move to manifest China’s sovereignty over the island. To do this, we need an opportunity which could prompt the international community to better understand the mainland’s move is natural rather than a provocation. Pelosi’s potential visit to the island will lead to major changes on the situation in the Taiwan Straits, and PLA’s strong reaction is in line with the expectation of the international community and the visit will offer PLA a good reason to send aircraft over the island,” the paper wrote, citing Hu.
The paper also claimed that Pelosi did not care if Biden was miffed.
“Pelosi doesn’t care that she might make a big mess of US-China relations, because the executive branch and the military will be the ones forced to take the consequences and deal with the aftermath,” it quoted Xin Qiang, deputy director of the Center for American Studies at Fudan University, as saying.
“The US should not underestimate the crisis and possible disastrous results it will bring to the Taiwan Straits if Pelosi ultimately makes the trip, experts said. On edge of the cliff for bilateral relations, if the US does not pull back but keeps challenging the guardrail, the price will be beyond US capabilities to pay,” the Global Times wrote Thursday.
“Should Pelosi visit Taiwan island, possible scenarios include PLA fighter jets intercepting Pelosi’s plane and escorting it to the mainland, the PLA declaring air and maritime zones around Taiwan island as restricted zones for military exercises, or conducting large-scale military drills around the island of Taiwan, including in the waters between Taiwan island and Japan as well as between Taiwan island and Guam, according to military experts,” the newspaper said.
Whether or not Pelosi ultimately makes the trip, a naval strike group centered on the USS Ronald Reagan are in the South China Sea.
“I can confirm USS Ronald Reagan and her strike group are now under way, operating in the South China Sea following a successful port visit to Singapore,” Lt. Mark Langford told Fox News.
“As a matter of policy, we do not discuss future ship movements; however, I will add that Reagan is continuing normal, scheduled operations as part of her routine patrol in support of a free and open Indo-Pacific,” he added.
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