Washington (AFP) – House Speaker Nancy Pelosi She launched her political career as being tough on China – a congresswoman who dared to wave a pro-democracy banner in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square during a 1991 visit with other US lawmakers shortly after the student massacre.
After more than 30 years, her interest was to travel to Taiwan It represents a powerful diplomatic culmination. It has also contributed to tensions at the highest levels in Washington and Beijing among officials who fear the trip will be provocative.
While the United States balances its high-risk relations with ChinaIt is still unknown if Pelosi will lead a delegation’s trip to Taiwan. What is certain, however, is that Pelosi’s decision will be a defining moment in foreign policy and human rights for the United States and its top legislator with a long-time Speaker of the House.
“That’s part of the speaker,” said Samuel Chu, head of Campaign for Hong Kong, a Washington-based organization.
“This is not a one-time, one-off publicity stunt,” said Chu, whose father was among those who met Pelosi and US lawmakers three decades ago in Hong Kong. “Thirty years later, she’s still in touch.”
Pelosi declined to disclose on Wednesday any update on her plans for Taiwan, stressing that she is not discussing travel plans, as usual, for security reasons.. The top Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Representative Michael McCaul of Texas, confirmed he had been invited to be part of Pelosi’s bipartisan delegation but was unable to join, though his office said it believed the speaker and other Americans should be able To visit Taiwan.
The Biden administration refused to publicly interfere with this rumored visit, even though the military plans to bolster its security forces in the region. To protect her potential travel against any backlash from China. While US officials say they have little fear of Beijing attacking Pelosi’s plane, they are aware that an accident, mistake or misunderstanding could jeopardize its safety.
It all comes as President Joe Biden prepares to speak on Thursday With his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping for the first time in four months, Pelosi’s potential trip looms over the conversation.
“There are always security issues,” said John Kirby, a spokesman for the National Security Council, declining on Wednesday to speak directly about the spokesperson’s possible travel.
Since Republican Newt Gingrich led a delegation to Taiwan 25 years ago, the US House speaker, third in line for the presidency, has not visited the autonomous region, which China claims to be a part of and has threatened to annex by force in a move. The West would look unfavorably.
More than just a visit abroad, Pelosi’s trip will signal foreign policy through the trajectory of her long career in Congress as she increasingly points to the speaker’s hammer abroad. Expand her job description to include the role of US envoy abroad.
Especially during the Trump administration, when the former president challenged America’s commitments to its allies, and now alongside Biden, the Democrat Pelosi has presented herself as a world leader on the world stage—Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in Kyiv, Pope Francis at the Vatican, and heads of state around the world.
“You absolutely should go,” Gingrich told The Associated Press in an interview Wednesday about Pelosi’s possible trip.
“She always had a very difficult situation coming back to Tiananmen Square. This is one of those places where she and I actually kind of agreed,” Gingrich said. “I think Nancy’s withdrawal would be a huge blow to Taiwan, and it would be a very dangerous signal, to try to appease the Chinese Communists.”
Pelosi noted the value she sees in her potential visit led by a delegation of lawmakers from the United States
“It is important that we show our support for Taiwan,” Pelosi told reporters at her press conference last week.
“None of us have ever said that we support independence, when it comes to Taiwan. It is up to Taiwan to decide.”
Pelosi was newly elected to Congress when tanks rolled into Tiananmen Square in 1989 against pro-democracy student protests.
Two years later, she joined more veteran lawmakers on the trip when they were briefly detained by police after she raised a pro-democracy banner that read “For those who died for democracy in China,” followed by news cameras.
“We were told two days ago that there is freedom of expression in China,” she said in one of the videos at the time.
Chu said the trip had a “profound and enduring” effect on Pelosi and became the basis for her leadership style.
Pelosi defended human rights in China by working against Beijing in 1993 as it looked to host the Summer Olympics and opposed its bid to host the 2008 Games. Pelosi has sought over the years to link China’s trade situation to its human rights record, and work to secure China’s entry To the World Trade Organization under supervision.
Pelosi has often made physical gestures that defy China, including in 2009 when she delivered a letter to then-President Hu Jintao calling for the release of political prisoners.
“China is a very important country,” she said on her return days after her return, as she acknowledged the 20th anniversary of Tiananmen Square in a speech to Congress, and explained the importance of the country’s “all ways” relationship with the United States.
“But the size of the economy, the size of the state, the size of the relationship doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be talking openly,” Pelosi said. “I’ve said that if we don’t talk about our human rights concerns in China and Tibet, we lose all moral authority to discuss them about any other country in the world.”
In Congress, lawmakers of both parties rallied around Pelosi’s possible visit to Taiwan, viewing the delegation’s trip as an important diplomatic mission as well as an expression of an equal branch of the United States government.
“I understand all the sensitivities in the world, and this is the stark truth: If we basically let the Chinese tell us who can visit Taiwan and who can’t, Taiwan will be isolated,” said Senator Bob Menendez, DNJ. Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. “We cannot let the Chinese do that. Now, she will have to judge whether or not this is the best at this time.”
Associated Press writer Chris Megerian contributed to this report.
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