Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi’s possible trip to Taiwan next month is the latest potential flashpoint in the Western Pacific. Beijing is warning Pelosi to cancel the trip and is attempting to put pressure on Washington to prevent the third-highest ranking official in the US government from visiting Taiwan. Over the weekend Financial Times reported that China has delivered warnings to US officials about the trip. According to sources, the warnings were stronger than the threats Beijing generally makes when it is unhappy with US policy or actions in the region. The fact that these warnings were given in private suggest the possibility of a Chinese military response to the trip.
At the Chinese Foreign Ministry’s regular Monday press conference, the spokesman told reporters “We are seriously prepared,” when he was asked about the report. “If the U.S. is bent on going its own way, China will take firm and strong measures to defend national sovereignty and territorial integrity.” China’s tactics are pure intimidation at this point, intended to make Washington back down. The Taiwanese government is watching events closely.
Right now, Taipei is caught between two chairs. If Pelosi’s visit takes place as planned, China could punish Taiwan for it. On the other hand, if the trip is canceled it undermines Taiwan’s security and appears to give China a voice in US-Taiwan policy. There’s a growing number of Taiwanese who are skeptical about the US commitment to Taiwan. As the threat from China grows, this cross-section of Taiwanese voters is sure to have more influence at the polls. To minimize skepticism, the US government needs to reassure Taiwan’s population that its commitment to their nation’s security is firm.