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Beijing has warned that the US will “bear all consequences” if House Speaker Nancy Pelosi visits Taiwan. Photo: AFP

Taiwan ‘will have to bear the wrath of Beijing’ if Nancy Pelosi goes ahead with visit, analysts say

  • US House speaker is reportedly planning to travel to the self-ruled island with a delegation next month, but it’s not confirmed
  • It is seen as creating a dilemma for Taipei, and Beijing is expected to respond with military pressure if Pelosi makes the trip
Taiwan will have to contend with the security and political impact if US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi goes ahead with a visit to the island, according to analysts.
Pelosi is reportedly planning to travel to the self-ruled island next month, a prospect that has inflamed tensions between Beijing and Washington. The Democrat is second in line to the presidency and would be the most senior US politician to visit Taiwan since her predecessor Newt Gingrich went to the island in 1997.

The lawmaker plans to take a delegation to Taiwan, and they will also visit Japan, Singapore, Indonesia and Malaysia in August, the Financial Times reported last week. She will also spend time in Hawaii at the headquarters of the US Indo-Pacific Command.

While Pelosi has not confirmed the report, US President Joe Biden told reporters last week that the military thought it was “not a good idea” for her to visit. She had earlier postponed a planned trip in April after contracting Covid-19.

There has been debate in the United States over whether Pelosi should make the trip – some lawmakers have urged her to proceed – given Beijing’s warning that the US would “bear all consequences” and face “forceful measures” if it goes ahead.

Beijing sees Taiwan as part of its territory and has not renounced the use of force to take the island under its control. The US does not have formal diplomatic relations with Taiwan, and Beijing has repeatedly warned Washington not to have official contact with Taipei or supply it with weapons.

Taiwan’s foreign ministry last week said it had not received any information about Pelosi’s planned visit. Analysts in Taipei say it has created a dilemma for the island.

“It would be extremely difficult for the government of President Tsai Ing-wen to decline Pelosi’s offer to visit, given [her position in US politics] and that she has long been known for her support for Taiwan,” said Wang Kung-yi, director of the Taiwan International Strategic Study Society, a think tank in Taipei.

He said the visit would also show the ability of Tsai’s Democratic Progressive Party to strengthen ties with the US, and as a result boost its chances at the local government elections in November.

“But if Pelosi does visit, the Tsai government will have to bear the wrath of Beijing, which has already threatened to take forceful measures [if it goes ahead],” Wang said.

Chieh Chung, a senior researcher at the National Policy Foundation, a think tank affiliated with Taiwan’s main opposition Kuomintang party, said Beijing would be likely to ramp up military pressure on the island during a visit by Pelosi.

“Possible action includes sending multiple warplanes across the median line that separates the Taiwan Strait,” Chieh said, noting that this happened when former US undersecretary of state Keith Krach visited Taiwan in 2020.
He said the People’s Liberation Army could also send warships over the median line, stage live-fire drills near Taiwan’s southern coast, or test-fire missiles near the Taipei-controlled Pratas Islands in the South China Sea to send a message during the visit. Attack drones could also be sent near the Taiwanese military outposts on the islands of Quemoy, or Kinmen, and Matsu.

“But it is less likely that the PLA would take any action close to Pelosi” given that it could trigger an unintended conflict with the US, he said.

Julian Kuo, a political commentator and former DPP lawmaker, said there was a good chance Pelosi would go ahead with the visit as a way to promote herself and the Democratic Party ahead of November’s midterm elections. He said that was especially the case given Republican criticism that Biden and the Democrats had been weak on defending US interests in the face of Chinese expansionism.

“But if she comes, the impact on Taiwan will be greater than on the US,” Kuo said, referring to retaliation from Beijing.

Wang from the Taiwan strategic study society agreed that Pelosi was likely to make the trip and said if she did the Tsai government would have no choice but to deal with the consequences.