White House National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby on Tuesday said China’s “escalatory” rhetoric ahead of a potential trip from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) to Taiwan is “clearly unhelpful and not necessary.”
Kirby told CNN’s John Berman that Pelosi has yet to formally announce a trip to Taiwan, a self-governing island nation off the coast of China, and the U.S. has not changed its policies concerning the two countries.
“That kind of rhetoric coming out of the Chinese side is clearly unhelpful and not necessary,” Kirby said. “Again, there’s been no trip announced and there’s no call for that kind of escalatory rhetoric.”
Whispers of a potential Pelosi visit to Taiwan, which could happen in early August, began circulating over the spring, with reports that she might lead a delegation to the island nation.
The news came amid heightened tensions between the U.S. and China over the island nation, which Beijing sees as historically part of the mainland.
The People’s Republic of China (PRC) foreign ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijan last week warned the House speaker’s visit would result in “strong and resolute measures” against the U.S. because it would violate the “One China” policy, which recognizes Taiwan as part of the mainland.
“It will have a severe negative impact on the political foundation of China-US relations, and send a gravely wrong signal to ‘Taiwan independence’ separatist forces,” he said.
China previously warned against Pelosi visiting Taiwan in April following reports she was planning a trip to the island in the near future. She later postponed her trip to Asia after testing positive for COVID-19.
If Pelosi were to stop at the island, she’d be the most senior U.S. official to visit Taiwan since former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) in 1997.
The U.S. takes an ambiguous position on Taiwan, offering to help the nation defend itself from potential Chinese aggression but making clear it would not intervene militarily on its behalf. The U.S. recognizes the “One China” policy but considers the Taiwan issue unsettled.
When President Biden traveled to east Asia over the spring, he said the U.S. would defend Taiwan militarily in comments the White House later clarified were not a change in policy. Biden has warned against Pelosi’s potential visit to Taiwan, saying it was “not a good idea.”
Chinese forces have in recent years escalated rhetoric against Taiwan and have often conducted military drills near the nation of 23 million people.
Taiwan itself is ramping up its own military drills with increasing tensions over Pelosi’s visit, the Associated Press reported.