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US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi began her trip to Asia on Sunday, her office said, but the statement did not include a contentious stop in Taiwan. Pelosi had earlier said that she will visit Taiwan, a move vociferously opposed by China.
China, which claims Taiwan as part of its sovereign territory, had warned of what it called “serious consequences” over the possible visit. In a statement after a marathon 150-minute conversation between US President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping last Thursday, the Asian country had said that US will be “playing with fire” if Pelosi goes ahead with the Taiwan visit.
Pelosi had planned to visit Taiwan in April, but she had to postpone the trip after she tested positive for Covid-19.
The last US House Speaker to visit Taiwan was Republican Newt Gingrich in 1997. However, the geostrategic context of Pelosi’s possible visit is significantly different, Washington sources said, because Xi has repeatedly said that the “reunification of Taiwan with China” is his top priority.
According to White House sources, Biden refused to ask Pelosi to cancel her visit in order to preserve the autonomy of the US Congress. Biden himself was a senator for over three decades before becoming the country’s Vice President under Barack Obama in 2008.
Pelosi’s first stop on Monday will be Singapore. In a statement on Sunday, Pelosi’s office said that the “trip will focus on mutual security, economic partnership and democratic governance in the Indo-Pacific region”.
Pelosi said on Sunday, “Today, our Congressional delegation travels to the Indo-Pacific to reaffirm America’s strong and unshakeable commitment to our allies and friends in the region. In Singapore, Malaysia, South Korea and Japan, our delegation will hold high-level meetings to discuss how we can further advance our shared interests and values, including peace and security, economic growth and trade, the Covid-19 pandemic, the climate crisis, human rights and democratic governance. Under the strong leadership of President Biden, America is firmly committed to smart, strategic engagement in the region, understanding that a free and flourishing Indo-Pacific is crucial to prosperity in our nation and around the globe.”
Pelosi is accompanied by Indian American Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-IL, 8th District). Other US Representatives who are part of the delegation include Gregory Meeks (D-NY, 5th District), Mark Takano (D-CA, 41st District), Suzan DelBene (D-WA, 1st District), and Andy Kim (D-NJ, 3rd District).
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