China warns US not to ‘pay the price’ if Pelosi visits Taiwan

China warned Tuesday that the United States would “pay a price” if House Speaker Nancy Pelosi visits Taiwan during her Asian trip, as tensions between the two superpowers continued to rise.

The prospect of Pelosi going to Taipei, which would be the highest visit by an elected US official in 25 years, has drawn increasingly hostile warnings from Beijing, which has strained the region.

Pelosi, 82, has not yet officially confirmed whether Taiwan is part of an ongoing Asian tour, but US and Taiwanese media have reported that it will.

“The US side will bear the responsibility and pay the price for undermining China’s sovereign security interests,” Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said at a regular press conference in Beijing.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said the “US breach of religion over the Taiwan issue is despicable” in comments posted on his department’s website on Tuesday that did not specifically mention Pelosi.

Beijing considers self-governing and democratic Taiwan its territory and once vowed to seize the island by force if necessary.

It tries to keep Taiwan isolated on the world stage and opposes countries that have official exchanges with it.

In a call with US President Joe Biden last week, Chinese President Xi Jinping warned the US not to “play with fire” in Taiwan.

While the Biden administration is understood to oppose stopping Taiwan, White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said Pelosi has the right to go wherever she wants.

“There is no reason for Beijing to turn a possible visit in line with long-term US policies into some kind of crisis,” he told reporters.

The last speaker of the House of Representatives to visit Taiwan was Newt Gingrich in 1997.

Kirby pointed to intelligence that China was preparing for possible military provocations.

He said that Pelosi was traveling on a military plane and that Washington did not fear a direct attack, but it “raised the risk of miscalculation.”

Kirby emphasized, however, that US policy toward Taiwan has not changed.

This means supporting its self-governing government, diplomatically recognizing Beijing over Taipei and opposing a formal declaration of independence by Taiwan or a Chinese takeover by force.

Meanwhile, Moscow said it was “completely in solidarity with China,” and called the prospect of Pelosi’s visit a “pure provocation.”

China has refused to condemn Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and has been accused of providing diplomatic cover to the Kremlin by criticizing Western sanctions and arms sales to Kyiv.

– All eyes on Taiwan –

Pelosi arrived in Kuala Lumpur on Tuesday, where she met Malaysian Prime Minister Ismail Sabri and Foreign Minister Saifuddin Abdullah.

Press access about Pelosi has been severely restricted and limited to a few short statements confirming meetings with Malaysian and Singaporean officials.

The rest of her itinerary includes stops in South Korea and Japan – but the prospect of a Taiwan trip dominated the interest.

Taipei has been silent on whether it expects to roll out the red carpet.

Several Taiwanese media have published comments from Vice Speaker of Parliament Tsai Chi-chang saying that Pelosi is “very likely” to visit her in the coming days.

Taiwan’s Liberty Times quoted unnamed sources as saying that it will land on Tuesday evening, and then meet with President Tsai Ing-wen the next day before leaving in the afternoon.

On Tuesday evening, Taiwan’s Presidential Office said its website was briefly offline for 20 minutes due to a downed DDoS attack. It was not clear why, but the office said it would intensify its monitoring in the face of “hybrid information warfare by outside forces”.

– ‘Seek to punish Taiwan’ –

The island nation’s 23 million people have long lived with the prospect of an invasion, but that threat has intensified under Xi, China’s most assertive leader in a generation.

On Tuesday, the island’s military said it was “determined” to defend it against growing threats from China over Pelosi’s possible visit.

“The probability of war or a serious accident is low,” tweeted Bonnie Glaser, director of the Asia program at the US-based German Marshall Fund think tank.

“But the possibility that … (China) will take a series of military, economic and diplomatic measures to show strength and resolve is not an easy thing,” she added.

“It will likely seek to punish Taiwan in myriad ways.”

The Taipei Agriculture Board said Tuesday that China has suspended the import of some Taiwanese goods, including some fish products, tea and honey. The council said China cited regulatory violations.

Pelosi’s potential visit has been preceded by a wave of military activities across the region that highlights the combustibility of the Taiwan issue.

Last week, both Taiwan and China conducted live-fire exercises.

The United States has maintained a naval presence in the region, including the Japan-based aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan that sailed through the South China Sea last week.

The Seventh Fleet’s official Twitter reported Tuesday that the aircraft carrier is now in the Philippine Sea.

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