(NewsNation) — Though it’s not on her official itinerary, both Taiwanese and U.S. officials are expecting House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to make a stop in Taiwan during her tour of Asia.
This, despite stark warnings from China that such a high-profile visit would constitute the U.S. “playing with fire.”
The last time a U.S. House speaker visited Taiwan was in 25 years ago in 1997, when Newt Gingrich made the trip. This time, the potential visit isn’t sitting well with China — which sees Taiwan as a rogue province over which it has jurisdiction.
In response, Beijing has been escalating its threats towards the U.S., including a military response.
The White House on Monday decried Beijing’s rhetoric, vowing the United States “will not take the bait or engage in saber rattling” and has no interest in increasing tensions with China.
Some of the “saber-rattling” the White House was alluding to include Chinese troops conducting military exercises with missile launches and hundreds of soldiers as well as a warning from Chinese officials saying its military would never “sit idly by” if she were to visit Taiwan.
Additionally, Chinese media tweeted Monday: “let her go to Taiwan but pray that she doesn’t set off a ‘large scale war in the Taiwan strait.”
White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby also underscored that the decision on whether to visit the self-ruled island that China claims as its own was ultimately Pelosi’s and that members of Congress have routinely visited Taiwan over the years.
Although, according to Taiwanese media reports, the visit could be happening as soon as Tuesday and would include an overnight stay — more than just a few hours on the ground — with Pelosi meeting her counterparts in Taiwan’s legislature.
Still, the USS Ronald Reagan — a nuclear-powered supercarrier — remains sailing in the South China Sea along with a strike group. The Pentagon says this is part of a planned deployment.
In the same vein, as the threats from China ramp up, Taiwanese officials have reportedly canceled leave for soldiers and officers to immediately prepare for a possible attack.