White House struggles to keep Biden’s China policy out of Pelosi’s Taiwan trip

WASHINGTON – As House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is reportedly set to land in Taiwan on Tuesday night for a long-rumored official visit, her trip has exposed a rare split between the White House and the White House. Biden and the most powerful Democrat in Congress.

Officially, the Biden administration has been careful to avoid directly answering questions about whether it agrees with Pelosi’s decision to make the trip.

But unofficially, the White House and Pentagon have made no secret of their opposition to such a visit, which comes at a time when US-China relations are at their worst in decades.

In late July, Biden responded to a question about Pelosi’s rumored stopover in Taiwan by saying: “The military thinks it’s not a good idea. But I don’t know the status of the how is it.”

For weeks, American officials from the president down have tied themselves in knots trying to talk about Pelosi’s choice to visit Taiwan, insisting that it was her decision, and only her alone.

Missing points

Now, experts say, the effort clearly missed the point. That’s because the deals in Washington are practically meaningless to the rest of the world, which has learned to view American presidents and their top allies in Congress as substitutes for the United States. on foreign policy issues.

The fact that US policy towards Taiwan is deliberately opaque only makes it much harder to find a meaningful difference between what Pelosi is doing and what the White House is saying.

Pelosi, a longtime China hawk, has not officially announced that she will be visiting the self-ruled island off mainland China, which Beijing considers a renegade province.

I think what you really see from the Chinese side, and not without reason, is that we’re pushing the One China policy.

Andrew Mertha

China Center for Global Studies, Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies

But after weeks of Pelosi and her office refusing to confirm the visit, citing security concerns, Taiwanese media reported on Monday that Pelosi and a congressional delegation of five House Democrats planned to spend Tuesday night in the capital Taipei and meet with Taiwanese leaders and members of the island’s legislature. island on Wednesday.

Beijing has been furious for months about the reported visit, marking the first time in 25 years that a US House of Representatives speaker has visited the island.

Any trip by Pelosi “would greatly threaten the peace and stability of the Taiwan Strait, seriously undermine China-US relations, and lead to a very serious situation and serious consequences.” Senior Chinese diplomat Liu Xiaoqing wrote late Monday. Liu’s statement reflects the tone and duration of weeks of warnings and threats that have emanated from Beijing.

On Tuesday, China escalated this rhetoric with a series of actions, starting with the announcement of new tariffs on Taiwanese goods. Soon after, Reuters reported that some Chinese fighter jets flew close to the median line of the Taiwan Strait.

A few hours later, a major Taiwanese media report that the island’s troops will be on high alert in response to China’s live-fire drills being held ahead of Pelosi’s reported visit.

Given that Pelosi will be traveling on a US military plane during her trip to Asia this week, the rapidly escalating military tensions between China and Taiwan carry particularly high risks.

They also highlighted how Pelosi’s trip has put the White House in Biden in a difficult position.

‘Independent branch of government’

As reports of the trip have consolidated in recent days, top Biden spokespeople have been forced to say over and over again that they cannot confirm or deny the existence of any upcoming trips. and at the same time downplaying its importance.

“I would like to reiterate that the Speaker has not confirmed any travel plans,” National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told reporters Monday.

However, Kirby confirmed shortly after that Biden had specifically raised the topic of Pelosi’s unconfirmed trip with Chinese President Xi Jinping last week, in a video. the call lasted more than two hours.

Ms. Biden “made clear that Congress is an independent branch of government and Speaker Pelosi makes its own decisions, like other members of Congress, about their trips abroad,” Kirby said. . “That was made clear.”

Moments after saying Biden and Xi had discussed the trip privately, Kirby again sought to downplay its significance.

“I think we’ve made it very clear that if she goes – if she goes – it’s not without precedent. It’s not new. It doesn’t change anything,” he said. “We don’t strengthen our rhetoric. We don’t change our behavior.”

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For foreign policy experts, the White House’s attempt to convince Beijing that it must distinguish between the conduct of the top Democrat in Congress and the intentions of the Democratic administration is futile.

“Saying this is all for nothing or that the Chinese shouldn’t read it… Well, anyone who’s spent half a minute looking at China knows that they attach some kind of intent to things. we do,” says Andrew Mertha, director of the Center for China Global Studies at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies.

Any hint that the visit of someone as important as Pelosi would be seen by Beijing as anything but a direct expression of US support for Taiwan independence, he said. Unbelievable, he said.

This is especially true after Biden himself said, on three separate occasions, that the United States would come to Taiwan’s defense if China invaded the island.

Those statements undermined decades-old assurances from Washington that the United States would maintain a policy of strategic ambiguity on the question of who controls Taiwan, Mertha said.

“I think what you really see from the Chinese side, and not unreasonable, is that we are pushing the One China policy,” Mertha said. China, but does not officially recognize Taiwan as an object of government in Beijing.

“They are alarmed,” Mertha said of Beijing, “and I don’t blame them.”

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