China warned the U.S. that there will be consequences if Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi visits Taiwan.
Pelosi had plans to lead a congressional delegation to Asia next week but tested positive for COVID-19. The trip has been “postponed to a later date,” Drew Hammill, Pelosi’s deputy chief of staff, tweeted on Thursday.
Pelosi’s possible stop in Taiwan has not been confirmed. It would mark the first time since 1997 that a U.S. speaker of the House has visited the island, according to Reuters. Newt Gringrich was the last speaker to make the trip.
But China warned that it will “take strong measures” if Pelosi visits Taiwan and said such a visit would damage U.S.-Chinese relations.
Taiwan has been a point of friction between the U.S. and China. Beijing believes it rightfully owns the democratically ruled island, while the U.S. has given Taiwan strong military and political support.
“If the United States insists on having its own way, China will take strong measures in response to defend national sovereignty and territorial integrity,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian told reporters.
“All possible consequences that arise from this will completely be borne by the U.S. side,” he added.
But Taiwanese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Joanne Ou said that official U.S. visits to Taiwan have always been an “important part” of the ministry’s work.
Meanwhile, the Kuomintang, a major Taiwanese political party, welcomed the idea of Pelosi’s visit. The party tweeted that it “hopes to exchange views on matters of mutual interests during the visit.”
— 中國國民黨 KMT (@kuomintang) April 7, 2022
In January, Pelosi had a virtual meeting with Taiwanese Vice President William Lai, Reuters reported.
A bill was also introduced in the House on Wednesday that would sanction China for any action it might take against Taiwan, according to The Hill.
Many lawmakers are particularly keen to show support for Taiwan as Russia is at war with Ukraine. Some speculate that China might try to make a grab for Taiwan.
“The situation in Ukraine is the very real consequence of weak leadership and a lack of true deterrence for Russia. Taiwan is a friend, good trading partner, and beacon of freedom and democracy,” Republican Sen. Kevin Cramer of North Dakota said regarding a similar bill he introduced in the Senate.
“Our bill threatens crippling financial sanctions as a deterrence to China trying to follow in [Russian President Vladimir] Putin’s footsteps as it relates to Taiwan,” he added.
There is no date set for Pelosi’s trip once she recovers from COVID-19 and Pelosi has not made any comment.