US House Speaker Pelosi kicks off Asia tour, no mention of Taiwan

  • Pelosi to tour Singapore, Malaysia, South Korea and Japan
  • No mention of Taiwan on her agenda
  • Chinese Air Force Reiterates Will To Defend Territory
  • Chinese military exercises in South China Sea

BEIJING, July 31 (Reuters) – US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi will embark on a tour of four Asian countries on Sunday, her office said, not naming Taiwan amid intense speculation she could visit the self-governed island that claimed by China.

“Speaker Nancy Pelosi is leading a congressional delegation to the Indo-Pacific region, including visits to Singapore, Malaysia, South Korea and Japan,” her office said in a statement.

It said the visit would include those countries but did not specify whether Pelosi, who is number 3 in the line of presidential succession, would make other stops.

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“The trip will focus on mutual security, economic partnership and democratic governance in the Indo-Pacific region,” it said.

Among the delegation was Gregory Meeks, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

Pelosi was due to arrive in Singapore on Monday for a two-day visit, the broadcaster CNA reported, citing the country’s foreign ministry. The American Chamber of Commerce in Singapore would organize a reception with her on Monday afternoon, her website.

China sees visits by US officials to Taiwan as an encouraging signal to the pro-independence camp on the island. Washington has no official diplomatic ties with Taiwan, but is required by law to provide the island with the means to defend itself.

A visit from Pelosi would be a dramatic, if not unprecedented, show of US support for Taiwan. Republican Newt Gingrich was the last speaker of the House to visit Taiwan in 1997.

President Xi Jinping warned his US counterpart Joe Biden on Thursday that Washington must adhere to the one-China principle and that “those who play with fire will perish.”

Biden told Xi that US policy towards Taiwan had not changed and that Washington strongly opposes unilateral attempts to change the status quo or undermine peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait. read more

Taiwan’s foreign ministry said Friday after the call between Xi and Biden that Taiwan would continue to deepen its close security partnership with the United States.

Chinese Air Force spokesman Shen Jinke told state media on Sunday that Beijing “will resolutely protect national sovereignty and territorial integrity.”

Shen said at a military air show that the Air Force has many types of fighter jets capable of orbiting “our motherland’s precious island,” referring to Taiwan.

He said the Chinese Air Force has the determination, full confidence and sufficient capacity to defend national sovereignty and territorial integrity.

A comment from a unit of the People’s Liberation Army on Weibo, China’s Twitter-like social media, posted Friday: “Prepare for war!” – received 1.87 million thumbs-ups.

SOUTH CHINESE OCEAN

When the US aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan and its attack group returned to the South China Sea on Thursday, Chinese military personnel conducted exercises nearby.

According to local authorities, Chinese military personnel held live firing exercises on Saturday in the waters of Fujian province, more than 100 kilometers (62 miles) from Taiwan.

China’s coast guard is holding a drill in the South China Sea off Guangzhou province on Monday, according to another report from the Maritime Safety Administration.

Prominent Chinese commentator Hu Xijin said on Saturday he deleted a tweet warning of military retaliation if US fighter jets escort Pelosi on a visit to Taiwan after Twitter blocked his account. read more

White House national security spokesman John Kirby said on Friday the United States has seen no evidence of impending Chinese military activity against Taiwan. read more

On Wednesday, Biden told reporters he thought the US military thought a Pelosi visit to Taiwan was “not a good idea right now.”

Pelosi’s Asian tour comes at a politically sensitive time for Chinese and American leaders.

Xi is expected to run for a groundbreaking third term at a congress later this year, while in the United States, Biden’s Democratic Party will face a tough battle to retain control of the US House of Representatives in November’s midterm elections.

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Reporting by Yew Lun Tian; Editing by William Mallard, Himani Sarkar and Sandra Maler

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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