Pelosi expected to go to Taiwan, Taiwanese and US officials say

The stop – the first for a US House speaker in 25 years – is not currently on Pelosi’s public travel schedule and comes at a time when US-China relations are already at a low point.

The Taiwanese official said he is expected to stay in Taiwan overnight. It is unclear when exactly Pelosi will land in Taipei.

The US official said Defense Department officials are working round-the-clock to monitor any Chinese activity in the area and prepare a plan to keep it safe.

The issue of Taiwan – an autonomous island that China claims as part of its territory – is one of the most controversial. President Joe Biden and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping discussed it in detail in a two-hour and 17-minute phone call on Thursday, as tensions escalated between Washington and Beijing.

“The question of Taiwan is the most sensitive, important core issue in Sino-US relations,” said the Chinese ambassador to the US Qin Gang at the Aspen Security Forum in July.

Biden said last month that the US military opposed Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan, though he has since declined to elaborate on the warnings. The White House has said it is up to the House speaker where she goes, and she has little say in her decision.

Still, administration officials have worked with Pelosi and his team over the past weeks to explore the risks of traveling to Taiwan. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin recently said that he discussed travel to Asia with Pelosi.

The administration takes extra care of Pelosi’s safety when she travels abroad because she is in line for the presidency.

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Administration officials are concerned that Pelosi’s visit comes at a particularly tense moment, as Xi is expected to seek an unprecedented third term at the upcoming Chinese Communist Party Congress. It is expected that Chinese party officials will begin to lay the groundwork for that conference in the coming weeks, which will put pressure on the leadership in Beijing to show strength.

Officials also believe that the Chinese leadership does not fully understand the political dynamics in the United States, leading to misunderstandings over the importance of Pelosi’s possible visit. Officials say China may be confusing Pelosi’s visit with an official administration visit, as both she and Biden are Democrats. Administration officials are concerned that China does not separate Pelosi from Biden much, if at all.

Pelosi has long been a critic of the Chinese Communist Party. He has met pro-democracy dissidents and the Dalai Lama, the Tibetan spiritual leader in exile, who remains a thorn in the side of the Chinese government. In 1991, Pelosi hoisted a black-and-white banner in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square in memory of the victims of the 1989 massacre, saying, “To those who died for democracy.” In recent years, she lent support to pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong.

The Chinese embassy in the United States has objected to her expected visit, which was planned for April, before Pelosi tested positive for Covid-19, asking members of Congress to ask the speaker not to make it. requested.

“I would say there has been a full-court press release from the Chinese embassy to discourage travel to Taiwan,” Washington Democratic Rep. Rick Larson, co-chair of the Congressional US-China Working Group, told CNN. “I don’t think it’s their job to tell us what we should do. That was my message back.”

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Liu Pengyu, a spokesman for the Chinese embassy in the US, responded that his office was in “regular contact” with members of Congress, including Larson.

“We have made our position clear and clear on the Taiwan question,” Pengyu said. “The Embassy is making all our efforts to prevent peace and stability in the Taiwan Straits and the possible visit of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to Taiwan from harming the stability of Sino-US relations.”

“We hope that serious consequences can be avoided,” he said. “It is in the common interest of both China and the US.”

Many Democrats and Republicans in Congress said it was Pelosi’s right to visit Taiwan.

“It is Speaker Pelosi’s decision alone whether to travel to Taiwan, not any other country,” said Illinois Republican Rep. Darin LaHood, Larson’s Republican counterpart in the US-China Working Group. “In our democratic system – we work with separate but equal branches of government.”

“It is inappropriate for foreign governments, including the Chinese government, to attempt to influence the ability or right for the speaker, members of Congress, or other US government officials to travel to Taiwan or anywhere around the world,” he said.

Other members appeared more cautious about diplomatically sensitive travel.

California Democratic Rep. Judy Chu, the first Chinese American woman elected to Congress, said she “has always supported Taiwan.”

But when asked whether the trip to Taiwan now would send the wrong message, Chu said, “You can look at it in two ways. One is that the relationship is very tense right now. But on the other hand, you can say that maybe This is when Taiwan also needs to show strength and support.”

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When asked what she thought, she said, “I leave it to those who are going to make this decision.”

This story has been updated with additional details on Monday.

CNN’s Nectar Gan contributed to this report.

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