Washington, Aug 1 (EFE).- The White House on Monday said that Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat, “has the right” to travel to Taiwan if she chooses, amid reports in the US press indicating that she plans to do so.
The coordinator for strategic communications at the National Security Council, John Kirby, said at a press conference that Pelosi, who is currently on an Asia tour, had not said whether she will travel to the island, although later various US officials confirmed that she would, in fact, visit Taipei, although it was not clear precisely when she plans to arrive.
Kirby said that the US has made it clear that Pelosi would make her own travel decisions and that Congress is an independent branch of the US government.
Kirby said that in the past other speakers of the House have visited Taiwan “without incident” and that other US lawmakers have done so as well.
He reiterated that the US stance has not changed with regard to Taiwan and that Washington opposes any unilateral change in the status quo either on the part of Taipei or Beijing, which claims Taiwan as an integral part of Chinese territory.
Kirby said that the US has said that it does not support independence for Taiwan.
He added that there is no reason for China to make a potential visit by Pelosi to Taiwan into a pretext for creating a conflict.
“Put simply, there is no reason for Beijing to turn a potential visit consistent with long-standing US policy into some sort of crisis conflict or use it as a pretext to increase aggressive military activity in or around the Taiwan Strait,” he said.
Nevertheless, he noted that over the weekend, before Pelosi departed for Asia, Beijing undertook military moves in the area.
He said that Beijing “appears to be positioning itself to potentially take further steps in the coming days, and perhaps over a longer time horizon.”
“These potential steps from China could include military provocations, such as firing missiles in the Taiwan Strait or around Taiwan,” he added.
In that regard, Kirby said that the US and its allies believe that an escalation in tensions in the zone serves nobody’s interest.
He said that Beijing’s actions could have unwanted consequences that would only serve to increase tensions, adding that US actions are not threatening to China.
Pelosi on Monday began her Asia tour in Singapore and will remain there until Tuesday and then fly to Malaysia, South Korea and Japan. Her office, for security reasons, has not announced when she will also visit Taiwan.
Pelosi’s visit will be the first made by a House speaker to Taiwan since 1997, when Republican Newt Gingrich traveled to the island.
The Chinese government has made it clear that it views the trip as a threat, and Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian warned that the Asian giant will respond “with firmness” to what it considers to be a provocation and that the US will have to take responsibility for any consequences arising from the trip.
On the other hand, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Monday that any trip to Taiwan was Pelosi’s decision alone, but he called on China not to escalate tensions if she decided to fly to Taipei.
“If the speaker does decide to visit and China tries to create some kind of crisis or otherwise escalate tensions, that would be entirely on Beijing,” Blinken early Monday afternoon at the United Nations, where he is attending talks on nuclear non-proliferation.
“We are looking for (China) – in the event she decides to visit – to act responsibly and not to engage in any escalation going forward,” the top US diplomat added.
For decades, Washington has pursued a policy of “strategic ambiguity” regarding Taiwan, which is a democratic and self-governing island off China’s coast that Beijing considers to be Chinese territory.