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The Chinese military “will not stand idly by” if House Speaker Nancy Pelosi visits Taiwan, a defense spokesman was quoted as saying by Xinhua news agency in recent hours.
On Tuesday, Chinese Defense Ministry spokesman Tan Kefei called on the United States to respect “its promise that it will not support Taiwan independence” and added that if Pelosi’s visit takes place, the Chinese military will take “strong measures.”
The official’s possible trip would “seriously damage the political foundation of China-U.S. relations” and “China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity,” Tan said.
The spokesman warned that a visit by Pelosi to Taiwan “will lead to further escalation of tensions in the Taiwan Strait.”
This is not the first time Chinese representatives have warned the United States about potential consequences since the U.S. media first reported the possibility of Pelosi’s trip. On July 19, a Foreign Ministry spokesperson expressed Beijing’s “firm opposition” to “any form of official exchange between the United States and Taiwan.”
For the moment, Nancy Pelosi and her team have not confirmed the trip, which could happen in August, according to U.S. media.
If it happens, it would be the first visit by a House Speaker to Taiwan since 1997, when Republican Newt Gingrich visited the island.
Taiwan is one of the major sources of conflict between China and the United States, mainly because Washington is Taiwan’s leading arms supplier and would be its major military ally in the event of a war with China.
Tensions have been heightened in the past year, during which the number of incursions by Chinese aircraft into Taiwan’s self-defined air identification zone (ADIZ) has increased, and Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen has admitted that the U.S. has a military presence on the island.
In the past year, Taiwan has been visited by several U.S. congressmen.
China, which claims sovereignty over the island, has considered Taiwan a rebel province since the Kuomintang nationalists retreated there in 1949 after losing the civil war against the communists.