Risk analysis: Biden bows to China on House Speaker Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan

FPI / July 28, 2022


By Richard Fisher

On July 21, caving to Chinese threats, pressure and concerns from the Pentagon, President Joe Biden publicly discouraged the Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, from visiting Taiwan.

A longtime critic of the Chinese Communist Party, before becoming Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, in 1991 Rep. Nancy Pelosi unfurled a banner on Tiananmen Square, and her visit to Taiwan is now opposed by many in the Biden Administration. / Office of Congresswoman Pelosi

In doing so, Biden risks encouraging greater Chinese blackmail against the U.S.-Taiwan relationship that could convey greater U.S. weakness, inviting China to greater aggression, endangers future Congressional visits to Taiwan and undermines the role of the Congress in promoting Asia policies that defend U.S. interests.

Reports that Pelosi planned to visit Taiwan in August first surfaced in the Financial Times on July 19, which also noted that a Pelosi visit had been previously planned for April, but that a harsh Chinese reaction at the time and Pelosi’s contracting Covid forced the trip to be delayed.

In April, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said that a Pelosi visit to Taiwan would be a “malicious provocation,” and Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said China “will have to take determined and forceful measures to firmly safeguard national sovereignty and territorial integrity.”

However, the Times also noted that there were divisions in the Administration over whether Pelosi should proceed with the August visit.

Knowing this, China likely decided to increase its threats and pressure calculating it could force the Biden Administration to prevent Pelosi’s visit.

On July 21, about reports of Pelosi’s August visit to Taiwan, Biden told reporters, “The military thinks it’s not a good idea right now, but I don’t know what the status of it is.”

At a press conference the next day Pelosi was more specific: “I think what the president was saying is [that] maybe the military was afraid our plane would get shot down or something like that by the Chinese…I’ve heard it anecdotally, but I haven’t heard it from the president.”

Perhaps already detecting division between the White House and Pelosi’s intentions from April, China’s has been over the top in blasting threats from its foreign ministry and propaganda outlets.

There are also reports that China has privately conveyed specific threats, possibly against Pelosi’s aircraft, but these have not so far been revealed in detail.

China’s threats are not idle; there have been nearly 600 People’s Liberation Army (PLA) aircraft incursions into Taiwan’s Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) this year, with most incursion taking place in the south to southeast regions off of Taiwan.

But on July 25, a PLA TB-001 unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) made a rare and threatening patrol flying though Japan’s Miyako Strait and flying circles about 50 miles off Taiwan’s east coast — a region that contains a likely route for Pelosi should she travel from Japan to Taiwan.

If China succeeds in barring Pelosi’s visit, it will likely make similar threats in the hopes of barring all U.S. Congress and high administration visits to Taiwan, as it will apply similar pressure against vital U.S. arms sales to the island.

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