SINGAPORE—U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi kicked off a closely-watched Asia tour on Monday in Singapore as the Chinese regime warned that its military would never “sit idly by” if she were to visit Taiwan, the self-ruled island claimed by Beijing.
Amid widespread speculation over whether she would make a stop in Taiwan, Pelosi’s office announced on Sunday that she was leading a Congressional delegation to the region that would include visits to Singapore, Malaysia, South Korea, and Japan. It did not mention Taiwan.
Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian reiterated the earlier warnings on Monday that if Pelosi visits Taiwan, it would lead to “very serious developments and consequences.”
Asked what kind of measures the Chinese army might take, Zhao said: “if she dares to go, then let us wait and see.”
The Chinese regime claims the island as its own, despite Taiwan being a de facto independent country, with its own military, democratically-elected government, and constitution.
The CCP has never renounced using force to bring Taiwan under its control. Taiwan rejects the CCP’s sovereignty claims and says only its people can decide the island’s future.
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.
A visit by Pelosi, who is third in the line of succession to the presidency and a long-time critic of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), would come amid worsening ties between Washington and Beijing. Republican Newt Gingrich was the last House speaker to visit Taiwan, in 1997.
During a phone call last Thursday, Chinese leader Xi Jinping warned his U.S. counterpart Joe Biden that Washington should abide by the one-China principle and “those who play with fire will perish by it.”
Biden told Xi that U.S. policy on Taiwan had not changed and that Washington strongly opposes unilateral efforts to change the status quo or undermine peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait.
On Monday, Taiwan Premier Su Tseng-chang did not directly respond when asked whether Pelosi will visit on Thursday, as local media have speculated.
“We always warmly welcome visits to our country by distinguished foreign guests,” he told reporters in Taipei.
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.
Lee welcomed a U.S. commitment to strong engagement with the region, and the two sides discussed ways to deepen U.S. economic engagement through initiatives such as the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework, the ministry said in a statement.
Pelosi was to attend a cocktail reception later Monday with the American Chamber of Commerce in Singapore. There is no media access to her visit, which has been kept under tight wraps.
She is scheduled to be in Malaysia on Tuesday.
On Thursday, Pelosi is to meet with South Korean National Assembly Speaker Kim Jin Pyo in Seoul for talks on security in the Indo-Pacific region, economic cooperation and the climate crisis, Kim’s office said in a statement.
It declined to provide further details about her itinerary, including when she is arriving in South Korea and how long she’ll stay.
Pelosi’s schedule for Wednesday remains unclear and there were no details on when she will head to Japan.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.