A Chinese government propagandist said Friday that Beijing could shoot down House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s plane if it’s accompanied by US military aircraft during an anticipated August visit to Taiwan — a dramatic escalation in rhetoric as relations between the two powers get worse and worse.
“If US fighter jets escort Pelosi’s plane into Taiwan, it is [an] invasion,” tweeted Hu Xijin, a columnist for the Chinese Communist Party-controlled Global Times. “The [People’s Liberation Army] has the right to forcibly dispel Pelosi’s plane and the US fighter jets, including firing warning shots and making tactical movement of obstruction.
“If ineffective, then shoot them down,” Hu added.
Pelosi (D-Calif.) was due to depart Friday on a multi-nation tour of Asia and has refused to confirm reports that she will visit the self-governing island in a demonstration of support for Taiwan’s de facto independence.
“I don’t ever talk about my travel because as some of you know, it’s a security issue,” the speaker told reporters at a news conference earlier Friday.
She later added, “I’m very excited if — should we go — to the countries that we, you’ll be hearing about along the way.”
Pelosi framed the trip as part of an attempt to involve Congress in the Biden administration’s efforts to build closer ties between the US and Asia.
“We have global responsibilities, whether it comes to three things, I would say: security, economy and governance. And this will be part of that. Thank you all,” she said before departing her press conference.
Taiwan’s status was addressed when President Biden spoke Thursday with Chinese President Xi Jinping, according to readouts by both governments.
During the discussion, Xi warned Biden that “those who play with fire will perish by it,” according to Beijing’s Foreign Ministry.
White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre would not confirm or deny whether the Chinese leader threatened the president, telling a reporter at her briefing Thursday, “I’m not going to speak to that statement, that comment that you just read out.”
Biden said last week that the US military believed a Pelosi visit to Taiwan was “not a good idea now,” but Republicans led by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) say the speaker would hand China “a victory of sorts” if she backs down. McConnell’s wife, Trump administration Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, was born in Taiwan.
China previously warned it would take “strong measures” — including possible military action — if Pelosi follows through with her reported trip to Taiwan, whose modern history dates to the withdrawal of Nationalist forces to the island after their defeat by Mao Zedong’s Communists in 1949.
On Friday, National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told reporters the US has not seen “physical, tangible indications of anything untoward with respect to Taiwan” from China.
A day earlier, the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan and its strike group was sent to the South China Sea after a port call in Singapore, in what the Navy’s Seventh Fleet said was a “routine patrol in support of a free and open Indo-Pacific.”
In April 2021, the US ambassador to Palau visited Taiwan in what was believed to be the first official trip by a senior US diplomat since 1979.
Pelosi would be the highest-ranking elected official to visit the island since then-House Speaker Newt Gingrich made the trip in 1997.
With Post wires