WASHINGTON — House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., is leading an official congressional delegation to Asia on Friday, two sources said, though it’s unclear if the trip will include a stopover in Taiwan.
One of the sources who reviewed the itinerary on Thursday afternoon said a visit to Taiwan was “tentative”. The trip will include visits to Asian allies Japan, South Korea, Malaysia and Singapore.
Bloomberg news first reported that Pelosi’s delegation leaves on Friday, the last day the House is in session before its month-long recess in August.
In a separate development, Rep. Rick Larsen, D-Wash., said Chinese authorities were pressuring him to try to stop Pelosi’s trip to Taiwan. He said in an interview that a Chinese Embassy official called his office and demanded that he tell the speaker to cancel the trip.
On Monday, China’s consul general in San Francisco delivered a similar message to Larsen in person at a long-scheduled meeting in his Seattle district.
“He also talked about it and made this request,” said Larsen, co-chair of the U.S.-China bipartisan task force. “I think it’s a serious miscalculation on the part of the Chinese to try to pressure any member of Congress for any trip anywhere, let alone this trip, if It happens.”
Pelosi has guest senior legislators to join her on the trip, including House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Gregory Meeks, D-N.Y., and Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman Mark Takano, D-California, who led a delegation of lawmakers in Taiwan last year.
Takano declined to comment on the trip Thursday afternoon. Representatives Michael McCaul, R-Texas, and Anna Eshoo, D-California, said they were also invited by Pelosi but were unable to make the trip.
Pelosi spokesman Drew Hammill also declined to comment. The president’s office has a policy of not discussing lawmakers’ international travel in advance, citing security concerns.
Earlier reports that Pelosi could travel to Taiwan grabbed international headlines and stern warnings that Beijing would lead a ‘forceful’ response if it set foot on the democratic island of 24 million people, which the China considers to be under its control.
Some of the threats were aimed at Pelosi herself. “If the United States cannot restrain her, let China restrain her and punish her,” said Hu Xjin, former editor of China’s state-run newspaper Global Times. tweeted. “APL Air Force will surely make its visit a disgrace to itself and to the United States.” (“PLA” is the People’s Liberation Army.)
One of the sources said Pelosi had been holding meetings in his office all week about the Asia trip and the Taiwan controversy. The source said talks about a possible visit were extremely delicate given the possibility of a military escalation.
“The Chinese could still miscalculate. The Cowboys could still miscalculate,” the source said. “And you have our people who are going to do what they are trained to do to keep it safe.”
President Joe Biden, who met with Chinese President Xi Jinping on Thursday, had raised concerns about Pelosi’s possible trip to Taiwan. He said over the weekend that U.S. military officials told him that visiting Taiwan “is not a good idea right now.”
Tensions over Taiwan were among the issues Biden and Xi discussed over the phone.
In their more than two-hour reading of the appeal, the Chinese used harsh rhetoric to warn against any US support for Taiwan independence.
“Those who play with fire will perish by it,” the Chinese said in a statement. “We hope that the United States will be lucid about this.”
Legislators from both parties rallied behind Pelosihowever, urging him to make the trip and highlight American support for the self-governing island.