Pelosi left Sunday for the Indo-Pacific, where she leads a delegation of five Democratic lawmakers focused on “mutual security, economic partnership and democratic governance” in the region, according to a press release from her office.
The delegation includes Democratic Representatives Gregory W. Meeks (NY), Mark Takano (Calif.), Suzan DelBene (Wash.), Raja Krishnamoorthi (Ill.) and Andy Kim (NJ). The delegation will travel to Singapore, Malaysia, South Korea and Japan, according to the statement.
Several Republican lawmakers were asked to join the trip but all declined, according to a person familiar with the plans who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss it. Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Tex.), the ranking Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, confirmed to NBC News last week that Pelosi invited him on the trip — which included Taiwan, a- he said – but had to decline because of a personal scheduling conflict.
China says it will take ‘strong action’ if Pelosi visits Taiwan
Since the Financial Times reported earlier this month that the US delegation would visit Taiwan, Pelosi has not confirmed whether she will be there, citing security. A spokesperson for Pelosi could not immediately be reached for comment early Sunday.
Pelosi, 82, had planned to travel to Taiwan in April, but that trip was postponed after she tested positive for coronavirus.
Joanne Ou, a spokesperson for the Taiwanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said she had “no further information to share with the media at this time, nor any comment on this.”
The White House tried to discourage a trip by Pelosi to Taiwan over fears it would provoke China and trigger a crisis in the Taiwan Strait. If Pelosi goes, she will become the first U.S. House Speaker to visit Taiwan since Rep. Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) did so in 1997.
Administration fears Pelosi trip to Taiwan could spark cross-strait crisis
Chinese state media seized on the announcement of Pelosi’s trip while continuing to reiterate his Defense Ministry’s warning that the People’s Liberation Army would not “stand idly by” if it went to Taiwan. The topic was trending on Weibo, the Chinese microblogging platform, on Sunday afternoon local time.
State media also quoted Chinese air force spokesman Shen Jinke on Sunday as saying that Beijing will “resolutely safeguard national sovereignty and territorial integrity” when it comes to Taiwan. Shen reportedly said the Chinese air force has a variety of fighter jets capable of circling “the precious island of our homeland”, according to Reuters.
Pelosi and the visiting lawmakers stopped in Hawaii on Saturday to refuel at the start of their trip, his office said. They received a briefing from the military leaders of the US Indo-Pacific Command and visited the Pearl Harbor National Memorial and the USS Arizona.
“In Singapore, Malaysia, South Korea and Japan, our delegation will hold high-level meetings to discuss how we can advance our shared interests and values,” Pelosi said in a statement. The statement said topics of the meeting will include trade, security, public health, climate change, human rights and democratic governance.
“Under the strong leadership of President Biden, America is firmly committed to intelligent strategic engagement in the region, understanding that a free and thriving Indo-Pacific is crucial to the prosperity of our country and the world,” added Pelosi.
Taiwan refines invasion response amid China’s threats over Pelosi’s trip
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine prompted Taiwan to take steps to strengthen its military preparedness against a possible attack from China. For decades, the United States has not taken a position on Taiwan’s sovereignty status, and the White House has repeatedly affirmed that the United States opposes any unilateral change to the status quo.
Both Democratic and Republican lawmakers have come out in favor of Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan. McCaul, the Republican who said he was invited to the trip, told NBC News that any member of Congress who wanted to visit Taiwan should do so because “it shows political deterrence of President Xi.”
On ABC’s “This Week” show on Sunday, Rep. Ritchie Torres (DN.Y.) said the decision was Pelosi’s “and hers alone.”
“We have to be careful not to send the message that the United States can easily be intimidated by China or can be intimidated by bellicose rhetoric, because if we allow ourselves to be intimidated it will never stop,” Torres said. .