The stop – the first for a US House speaker in 25 years – is not currently on Pelosi’s public itinerary and comes at a time when US-China relations are already at an all-time low.
The Taiwanese official added that she is expected to stay in Taiwan all night. It is unclear when exactly Pelosi will land in Taipei.
“The question of Taiwan is the most sensitive and important core issue in Sino-US relations,” Chinese Ambassador to the United States Qin Gang said at the Aspen Security Forum in July.
Biden said last month that the US military was opposed to Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan, though he has since refused to release the warnings. The White House said where she’s traveling is up to the Speaker of the House, and that they have little say in her decision.
However, over the past weeks, administration officials have worked to explain the dangers of visiting Taiwan in meetings with Pelosi and her team. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin recently said he discussed a visit to Asia with Pelosi.
The administration takes extra care of Pelosi’s security when she travels abroad because she is in the presidential line of succession.
Administration officials are concerned that Pelosi’s trip comes at a particularly tense moment, as Xi is expected to seek an unprecedented third term at the upcoming Chinese Communist Party Congress. Chinese party officials are expected to begin laying the groundwork for that congress in the coming weeks, putting pressure on the leadership in Beijing to show strength.
Officials also believe that the Chinese leadership is not fully aware of the political dynamics in the United States, leading to misunderstandings about the significance of Pelosi’s possible visit. Officials say China may be confusing Pelosi’s visit with an official visit by the administration, as she and Biden are Democrats. Administration officials worry that China is not separating Pelosi and Biden much, if at all.
Pelosi has long been a critic of the Chinese Communist Party. She met pro-democracy opponents and the Dalai Lama – the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader who remains a thorn in the side of the Chinese government. In 1991, Pelosi raised a black and white banner in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square commemorating the victims of the 1989 massacre, which read “Those Who Died for Democracy.” In recent years, she has expressed support for the pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong.
The Chinese Embassy to the United States has objected to its expected trip, which was scheduled for April before Pelosi tested positive for Covid-19, and urged members of Congress to tell the spokesperson not to.
“I would say there is a whole court press from the Chinese embassy to discourage a trip to Taiwan,” Washington Democratic Representative Rick Larsen, co-chair of the US-China Congressional Working Group, told CNN. “I just don’t think they would tell us what to do. That was my message again.”
Liu Bingyu, a spokesman for the Chinese embassy in the United States, responded that his office was in “regular contact” with members of Congress, including Larsen.
“On the Taiwan issue, we have taken our position loud and clear,” Pingyu said. “The embassy is making every effort to prevent peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait and the damage to China-US relations by the possible visit of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to Taiwan.”
“We hope to avoid serious consequences,” he added. “This is in the common interests of both China and the United States.”
Several Democrats and Republicans in Congress have said Pelosi has the right to travel to Taiwan.
“It’s Speaker Pelosi’s decision alone whether to travel to Taiwan or not to travel to any other country,” said Illinois Republican Representative Darren LaHood, Republican Larsen’s counterpart in the U.S.-China working group. “In our democracy – we operate 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 to travel of the Speaker of Parliament, members of Congress, or other US government officials to Taiwan or anywhere else around the world,” he added.
Other members seemed more cautious about the delicate diplomatic journey.
California Democratic Representative Judy Chu, the first Chinese-American woman elected to Congress, said she “always supported Taiwan.”
But when asked if the Taiwan trip now would send the wrong message, Chu said, “You can look at it two ways. One is that relations are very strained at the moment. But on the other hand, you can say maybe it was when he also needs to show strength and support.” .
When asked her opinion, she said, “I leave it to those who will make that decision.”
This story was updated with additional details on Monday.
CNN’s Nectar Jan contributed to this report.
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