Pelosi says Biden has not warned her against a trip to Taiwan

Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.)
Greg Nash
Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) addresses reporters during her weekly press conference on Thursday, July 21, 2022.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said Thursday that President Biden has not talked to her directly about an official trip to Taiwan she’s reportedly set to take during Congress’s long August break. 

Biden on Wednesday weighed in on the potential trip, indicating that the Pentagon, concerned about a backlash from China, is seeking to discourage the visit from happening.

“The military thinks it’s not a good idea right now,” Biden said as he stepped off of Air Force One at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland, “but I don’t know what the status of it is.”

Speaking to reporters in the Capitol on Thursday, Pelosi declined to confirm that the trip was happening — “You never even hear me say if I’m going to London, because it is a security issue,” she said — while suggesting the Pentagon’s concern is that Beijing would attack her plane, rather than allow it to land in Taipei. 

“I think what the president was saying is that maybe the military was afraid that our plane would get shot down, or something like that, by the Chinese,” she said. “I don’t know exactly. I didn’t see it. I didn’t hear it.” 

“You’re telling me and I heard it anecdotally,” she added. “But I haven’t heard it from the president.” 

Pelosi has been a longtime critic of China, particularly when it comes to its human rights abuses and policy toward Taiwan, a self-governed island that Beijing claims as its own. In an effort not to confront Chinese leaders directly on the contentious topic, U.S. administrations of both parties have, for decades, adopted a fragile and hazy approach to Taiwan’s political standing known as “strategic ambiguity.” 

Pelosi’s scheduled trip to Taiwan, first reported by the Financial Times, quickly caught the attention of Chinese leaders, who are warning of stiff, if unnamed, repercussions if she goes through with it. 

“If the United States insists on having its own way, China will take strong measures in response to defend national sovereignty and territorial integrity,” said Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian, according to Reuters. “All possible consequences that arise from this will completely be borne by the U.S. side.”

Pelosi on Thursday seemed to downplay the significance of the visit, emphasizing that while it’s important to demonstrate official U.S. backing for Taiwan, her position should not be interpreted as a call for full independence from Beijing.

“I think that it’s important for us to show support for Taiwan,” she said. “I also think that we have — none of us has ever said we’re for independence when it comes to Taiwan. That’s up to Taiwan to decide.”

Pelosi’s visit, if it materializes, would mark the first time a House Speaker has visited Taiwan since 1997, when then-Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) made the trip.

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