July 20 (BP) — China reacted angrily to new rumors of a visit by U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to Taiwan, warning the trip would have a “severe negative impact” on relations and vowing “strong and resolute measures” in response.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian made the remarks during a press briefing on Tuesday in response to a report by the Financial Times that Pelosi plans to travel to the self-governing island next month.
A visit by Pelosi would “have a severe negative impact on the political foundation of China-U.S. relations, and send a gravely wrong signal to ‘Taiwan independence’ separatist forces,” Zhao said.
“China will take strong and resolute measures to safeguard its sovereignty and territorial integrity,” he added. “The U.S. must assume full responsibility for any ensuing consequences.”
Pelosi’s visit would be the first to Taiwan by a House speaker since Newt Gingrich met then-President Lee Teng-hui in 1997. She had originally been rumored to make the trip in April during a scheduled Asia tour, drawing a similar response then from China, but her travel plans were canceled after she tested positive for COVID-19.
Beijing views Taiwan as a wayward province and has vowed to retake it by force if necessary.
The democratic island of 23 million has become perhaps the main point of contention in the relationship between Beijing and Washington, as concern about China’s intentions grows in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which is in its fifth month.
China has ratcheted up military provocations over the past several months, with frequent incursions into Taiwan’s Air Defense Identification Zone and combat training exercises near the island — a practice Taipei calls “gray zone” warfare, meant to strain its defense capabilities and wear down its morale.
Beijing has also recently amplified claims to the Taiwan Strait, with a foreign ministry spokesman saying that China has “sovereignty, sovereign rights and jurisdiction” over the waterway.
The United States has responded by staging joint naval exercises with allies in the region and sailing warships through China-claimed international waters on freedom of navigation exercises.
The U.S. Navy last week drew an indignant response from China after its latest transit near disputed islands in the South China Sea.
Washington also approved a weapons sale of $108 million to Taipei, the Pentagon announced last Friday, prompting yet another rebuke from Beijing.