China has once again warned the United States of “consequences” over a potential visit by US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to the Chinese Taipei, with tensions soaring ahead of an expected phone call between American President Joe Biden and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping.
The strongly-worded statement from Beijing on Wednesday came in response to reports last week that 82-year-old Pelosi, a Democrat who is second in the presidential line of succession, could pay a visit to the self-ruled island in August.
“We are firmly opposed to Speaker Pelosi's visit to Taiwan. If the US pushes ahead and challenges China's bottom line... the US side will bear all the consequences,” warned Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian at a regular press conference.
China has repeatedly warned the US against formal ties with the Chinese Taipei, which is the sovereign territory of China.
Under the “One China” policy, nearly all countries across the globe recognize Beijing's sovereignty over Chinese Taipei, including the US, which has no formal diplomatic ties with the territory but continues to support its anti-China stance and supply it with massive amounts of armaments.
Pelosi’s potential visit - yet to be confirmed by the senior Democrat herself - to the island is likely to dominate a phone conversation between Xi and Biden, who has said he expects the call will take place this week.
The visit has already sounded the alarm in Biden’s administration, which fears it might cross red lines for China. Last week, the American president said the US military “thinks it's not a good idea right now.”
CIA chief Bill Burns also said President Xi appears to be committed to the option of using force against Taiwan. “I wouldn't underestimate President Xi's determination to assert China's control” the over self-ruled island, he said.
As Beijing and the US military opposed the visit, the potential trip managed to draw support from Republicans in Washington, including members of the administration of former President Donald Trump.
“I think if the speaker wants to go, she should go,” said Trump’s second secretary of defense, Mark Esper.
Mike Pompeo, Trump’s second secretary of state, also supported the visit, tweeting, “Nancy, I’ll go with you. I’m banned in China, but not freedom-loving Taiwan. See you there!”
Democrats also rally behind the visit, offering encouragement.
“If I were the speaker, I’d be going,” said Rep. Pete Sessions, R-Texas, who has served with Pelosi in Congress for more than two decades.
Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., who previously served with Pelosi in the House, also supported the trip, saying, “If she wants to go, I certainly think she should go. And I think she should be more motivated to go now that she’s been discouraged, and colleagues should join her.”
Rep. Jim Himes, D-Conn., a member of the Intelligence Committee, also backed the visit, saying, “The Chinese are not going to restrict the speaker of the House's travel.”
National Security officials are, according to CNN, quietly working to convince Pelosi of the risks her potential visit to Taiwan could pose during a highly-sensitive moment between China and the Chinese Taipei.
“If the US insists on taking its own course, the Chinese military will never sit idly by, and it will definitely take strong actions to thwart any external force's interference and separatist's schemes for 'Taiwan independence,' and resolutely defend national sovereignty and territorial integrity,” said Ministry of Defense Spokesperson Tan Kefei.
Since Biden came to power early last year, Washington-Beijing relations began to further deteriorate over multiple issues, including Taiwan, human rights and technology sector competition. However, the American president has sought to stabilize ties with China through regular conversations with his counterpart.