The U.S. government is watching to see if China uses House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan as justification for escalated aggression toward the island.
Pelosi in Taiwan lauded the “democratic values” and “self-governance” of Taiwan and assured the Taiwanese that the U.S. would maintain mutual security interests in the region.
The White House on Monday said the Biden administration will “not be intimidated” by China’s “saber-rattling” even while reaffirming the United States does not back Taiwan’s independence. The mixed messaging between the White House and Pelosi has not helped the tense international relations surrounding the visit to Taiwan.
“There is no change on our part – something that the President Biden has affirmed repeatedly,” a senior State Department official told reporters. “The question is whether Beijing will try to use the trip as some kind of excuse to take steps that could be escalatory or that could somehow produce conflict.”
“And China should not use this as a pretext to continue what it’s doing, which is seeking to change the status quo with regard to Taiwan,” the official said.
The People’s Republic of China has long claimed sovereignty over Taiwan and the Taiwan Strait, the relatively narrow strip of ocean between the island of Taiwan and the Chinese mainland. The Chinese military has frequently sent planes into the area, testing Taiwan’s air defense zone.
The U.S. does not have official relations with Taiwan – also known as the Republic of China – and maintains a “One China” policy that recognizes the People’s Republic of China as the legitimate successor nation.
Chinese officials have said Pelosi visiting Taiwan violates the “One China” policy and would constitute aiding an illegal rebellion. A Chinese state media personality even suggested shooting down the speaker’s plane.