House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is widely reported set to visit Taiwan on Tuesday despite warnings from China that its military would never “sit idly by” if she visited the democratic-ruled island claimed by Beijing.
The Defense Department had advised against the trip, but has forces in the region in the event of a crisis. The aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan and its strike group departed Singapore last week, and the San Diego-based USS Tripoli, an amphibious assault ship with F-35 stealth jets, was near Okinawa.
Pelosi, who represents the San Francisco area in Congress, is flying on an Air Force C-40, a military version of the Boeing 737 that is used to carry political leaders on international visits.
Pelosi, who began her Asia trip on Monday in Singapore, was due to spend Tuesday night in Taiwan, according to sources quoted by Reuters.
Taiwan’s foreign ministry said it had no comment on reports of Pelosi’s travel plans.
Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said earlier on Monday that it would be “a gross interference in China’s internal affairs” if Pelosi visits Taiwan, and warned that it would lead to “very serious developments and consequences.”
“We would like to tell the United States once again that China is standing by, the Chinese People’s Liberation Army will never sit idly by, and China will take resolute responses and strong countermeasures to defend its sovereignty and territorial integrity,” Zhao told a regular daily briefing.
Asked what kind of measures the PLA might take, Zhao said: “if she dares to go, then let us wait and see.”
A video by the People’s Liberation Army’s Eastern Theater Command, which showed scenes of military exercises and preparations and was posted on state media sites on Monday evening, urged troops to “stand by in battle formation, be ready to fight upon command, bury all incoming enemies.”
The White House dismissed China’s rhetoric as groundless and inappropriate. “It is not uncommon for congressional leaders to travel to Taiwan,” National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said in an interview with CNN early Monday.
A visit by Pelosi, who is second in the line of succession to the U.S. presidency and a long-time critic of China, would come amid worsening ties between Washington and Beijing. Republican Newt Gingrich was the last House speaker to visit Taiwan, in 1997.
Washington does not have official diplomatic ties with Taiwan but is bound by U.S. law to provide the island with the means to defend itself.
On Monday, Pelosi and her delegation met with Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, discussing issues including cross-strait relations, the Ukraine war and climate change, Singapore’s foreign ministry said.
“PM Lee highlighted the importance of stable U.S.-China relations for regional peace and security,” it said.
Beijing considers Taiwan to be part of its territory and has never renounced using force to bring the island under its control. Taiwan rejects China’s sovereignty claims and says only its people can decide the island’s future.
Pelosi’s trip is expected to also to include trips to Malaysia, South Korea and Japan.
Reuters contributed to this article.