China warns US ‘will pay price’ if Pelosi visits Taiwan

US ‘will pay price’ if House Speaker Nancy Pelosi visits Taiwan on Asia trip, China warned Tuesday as tensions between the two superpowers continued to soar.

The prospect of Pelosi visiting Taipei, which would be the most high-profile visit by an American lawmaker in 25 years, has sparked increasingly belligerent warnings from Beijing that have the region on edge.

Pelosi, 82, has yet to officially confirm whether Taiwan is part of an ongoing Asian tour, but US and Taiwanese media have said it will happen.

“The US side will bear the responsibility and pay the price for harming China’s sovereign security interests,” Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said at a regular press briefing in Beijing.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said the United States’ “lack of faith on the Taiwan issue is despicable” in comments posted on his ministry’s website on Tuesday that did not specifically mention Pelosi.

Beijing considers democratic and self-governing Taiwan its territory and has vowed to one day seize the island, by force if necessary.

It tries to keep Taiwan isolated on the world stage and opposes countries having official trade with it.

During a call with US President Joe Biden last week, Chinese President Xi Jinping warned the United States against “playing with fire” in Taiwan.

While the Biden administration is reportedly opposed to a shutdown in Taiwan, White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said Pelosi has the right to go where she wants.

“There is no reason for Beijing to turn a potential visit in line with long-standing US policies into some kind of crisis,” he told reporters.

The last Speaker of the House to visit Taiwan was Newt Gingrich in 1997.

Kirby cited intelligence that China was planning possible military provocations.

He said Pelosi was traveling on a military plane and that while Washington was not afraid of a direct attack, it “raises the stakes of a miscalculation.”

Kirby, however, reiterated that US policy was unchanged toward Taiwan.

This means supporting its self-government, while diplomatically recognizing Beijing rather than Taipei and opposing a formal declaration of independence by Taiwan or a forced takeover by China.

Meanwhile, Moscow said it was “absolutely in solidarity with China”, calling the prospect of a visit by Pelosi “pure provocation”.

China has refused to condemn Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and has been accused of providing diplomatic cover for the Kremlin by blasting Western sanctions and arms sales to Kyiv.

– All eyes on Taiwan –

Pelosi arrived in Kuala Lumpur on Tuesday where she met Malaysian Prime Minister Ismail Sabri and Foreign Minister Saifuddin Abdullah.

Press access around Pelosi was strictly restricted and limited to a handful of short statements confirming meetings with Malaysian and Singaporean officials.

The rest of his itinerary includes stops in South Korea and Japan, but the prospect of a trip to Taiwan dominated the spotlight.

Taipei has kept quiet about its intention to roll out the red carpet.

Several Taiwanese media outlets carried comments by Deputy Speaker of Parliament Tsai Chi-chang, saying Pelosi was “very likely” to surrender in the coming days.

And Taiwan’s Liberty Times quoted unnamed sources as saying she would land on Tuesday evening, then meet President Tsai Ing-wen the following day before departing again in the afternoon.

On Tuesday evening, Taiwan’s presidential office said its website was briefly offline for 20 minutes due to a DDoS attack that was stopped. It’s unclear why, but the bureau said it would increase its oversight of “hybrid information warfare by outside forces.”

– ‘Seek to punish Taiwan’ –

The island nation’s 23 million people have long lived with the possibility of invasion, but that threat has intensified under Xi, China’s most assertive leader in a generation.

The island’s military said on Tuesday it was “committed” to defending it against heightened threats from China over Pelosi’s potential visit.

“The likelihood of war or a serious incident is low,” tweeted Bonnie Glaser, Asia program director at the US think tank German Marshall Fund.

“But the likelihood that … (China) will take a series of military, economic and diplomatic actions to show its strength and determination is not insignificant,” she added.

“He will likely seek to punish Taiwan in multiple ways.”

The Taipei Council of Agriculture said on Tuesday that China had suspended the import of certain Taiwanese products, including certain fish products, tea and honey. The council said China cited regulatory violations.

Pelosi’s potential visit was preceded by a flurry of military activity across the region that highlights just how stoked the Taiwan question is.

Last week, Taiwan and China held live-fire drills.

The United States has maintained a naval presence in the region, including the usually Japan-based aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan, which sailed through the South China Sea last week.

The official Seventh Fleet Twitter reported on Tuesday that the carrier is now in the Philippine Sea.