Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) will be the highest-ranking U.S. representative at the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony Dec. 10 to honor Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo.
Nobel Institute director Geir Lundestad told Agence France-Presse that Pelosi had RSVP'd yes. "She will be the most prominent representative from the American side," he added.
President Obama was awarded the prize last year in Oslo. This year, the recipient won't be able to come collect his prize as Liu is imprisoned in China. Other Chinese dissidents plan to attend in support of Liu, and past Nobel Peace Prize winner Lech Walesa, leader of the Solidarity movement that brought down communism in Poland, offered to symbolically accept the prize.
Earlier this month, China issued a stern warning to other nations to not attend the ceremony. China, Cuba, Iraq, Kazakhstan, Morocco and Russia are reported to have begged off the invitation. British Prime Minister David Cameron will be attending a business event in China at the time of the ceremony.
Vice Foreign Minister Cui Tiankai said governments would have to "take responsibility for the consequences" if they showed support for Liu. The warning takes on particular significance in recent days as China's help is likely to be increasingly sought to rein in North Korea, which attacked a South Korean island this week.
When Liu was announced as the recipient in October, Pelosi hailed the activist as joining "the pantheon of great leaders for non-violence, justice, and freedom throughout history."
“Liu Xiaobo is a champion for the best hopes of humankind, a courageous advocate for democracy and human rights in China, whose only crime was putting his political views into writing," she said in a statement. "His message of reform is an inspiration to the entire world. He and fellow activists deserve the attention and partnership of freedom-loving people everywhere."
Pelosi and Obama both called for the release of Liu.
"Over the last 30 years, China has made dramatic progress in economic reform and improving the lives of its people, lifting hundreds of millions out of poverty," Obama said in a statement at the time. "But this award reminds us that political reform has not kept pace, and that the basic human rights of every man, woman and child must be respected."