A Chinese state newspaper warned of a potential “destructive strike” against Taiwan if House Speaker Nancy Pelosi visits the island nation, arguing that “warplanes” should be used as a threat.
Some Japanese and Taiwanese media reported that Pelosi, a California Democrat who is No. 3 in the line of presidential succession, planned to visit Taiwan after a trip to Japan this weekend. (On Thursday, a Pelosi spokesman said she has tested positive for the coronavirus.) Pelosi’s office did not confirm such a trip, which would be the first by a House speaker since 1997.
China made it clear on Thursday that it would view such a high-profile visit as a provocation. Under its “one country, two systems” governing philosophy, China views Taiwan as part of its territory. But the island nation has existed independently for decades, and analysts have increasingly raised concerns in recent years that Beijing could seek to take back full control of Taiwan through military force.
“If the United States insists on having its own way, China will take strong measures in response to defend national sovereignty and territorial integrity,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian told reporters Thursday, referring to Pelosi’s possible visit to Taiwan.
“All possible consequences that arise from this will completely be borne by the U.S. side,” Zhao added, according to Reuters.
Global Times, an English-language tabloid circulated by the ruling Chinese Communist Party, on Thursday published an opinion article urging Beijing to take a strong stand against a Pelosi visit.
“It could be announced that the airspace over Taiwan is closed on April 10th and a flight ban imposed. The PLA [China’s People’s Liberation Army] could deploy a large number of warplanes to fly around the island to ensure that the ban is implemented,” Hu Xijin, a former Global Times editor-in-chief, wrote in the article.
Hu contended that “the PLA warplanes could fly over Taiwan island on the day of Pelosi’s visit, either from the west to east cross the Strait or from the direction of Pelosi’s plane to the island, for which the PLA should be prepared for a full contingency.”
He added, “If Taiwan’s forces open fire on our warplanes, the PLA should shoot down Taiwan’s aircraft or carry out a destructive strike on Taiwan’s force bases from which the missiles are launched.”
Newsweek reached out to Pelosi’s office for comment but did not immediately receive a response.
Taiwan Foreign Ministry spokesperson Joanne Ou said that inviting U.S. officials has long been “an important part” of the ministry’s work, adding that the island would announce such visits only at the appropriate time, according to Reuters. Pelosi has been critical of China’s human rights abuses. This Sunday marks the 43rd anniversary of the U.S. signing into law the Taiwan Relations Act, which sets “the legal basis for the unofficial relationship between the United States and Taiwan,” according to the State Department.
With Russia’s internationally condemned invasion of Ukraine, some analysts have speculated that China could be watching the conflict closely as it considers any next steps in taking back control of Taiwan. China has repeatedly sent military aircraft to violate Taiwan’s air defense zone in the past several months. On January 23, 39 Chinese aircraft flew into the zone, and Taiwanese fighter jets were scrambled in response. In mid-March,13 Chinese aircraft entered the zone.
President Joe Biden—like former President Donald Trump before him—has made what many in Washington, D.C., view as the growing Chinese threat a central issue of his foreign policy. In a March 18 call with Chinese President Xi Jinping, Biden “reiterated that U.S. policy on Taiwan has not changed, and emphasized that the United States continues to oppose any unilateral changes to the status quo,” according to a White House readout summary.
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