Nancy Pelosi has painted herself into quite the corner regarding her upcoming trip to Taiwan.
If she cancels the trip over Beijing's objections, she'll have "handed China sort of a victory of sorts," according to a Tuesday statement by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.
NEWS: #Senate Republican Leader #McConnell says most important that US work w #Taiwan to ensure they have sufficient weapons amid #China threat.— Nancy Ognanovich (@NOgnanovich) July 26, 2022
Re #Pelosi trip, 'if she doesn't go now she's handed China sort of a victory of sorts,' McConnell tells reporters pic.twitter.com/QnqGUbR9bC
This comes as Biden administration officials bristle over growing tensions between Beijing and Taipei - telling the The New York Times they're worried that China could move militarily against the island territory in as little as one-and-a-half years.
This might come, the report notes, by China "trying to cut off access to all or part of the Taiwan Strait, through which U.S. naval ships regularly pass." Admin officials are further described as fearful and anxious that if House Speaker Nancy Pelosi goes through with a proposed trip to Taiwan in August, it could spark miscalculation or conflict leading to a full-blown crisis.
Chinese state media has been pushing a "military response" should Pelosi fly to Taipei next month, though official statements out of the foreign ministry have stopped short of being this specific, but have threatened the slightly more vague "forceful measures" if she follows through with it.
The timing is also sensitive given Chinese domestic politics, as the Times underscores, "U.S. officials see a greater risk of conflict and miscalculation over Ms. Pelosi’s trip as President Xi Jinping of China and other Communist Party leaders prepare in the coming weeks for an important political meeting in which Mr. Xi is expected to extend his rule."
Senator Chris Coons of Delaware, who advises the US administration on Taiwan-related issues, said that "one school of thought is that the lesson is ‘go early and go strong’ before there is time to strengthen Taiwan’s defenses" - in reference to parallels of the Ukraine crisis.
Coons added: "And we may be heading to an earlier confrontation — more a squeeze than an invasion — than we thought."
Offering a US military perspective chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley last week warned of "significantly more and noticeably more aggressive" behavior by the Chinese PLA military in the Asia-Pacific region. And on Tuesday, the US military said:
ONLY MATTER OF TIME BEFORE MAJOR INCIDENT OR ACCIDENT IF CHINA CONTINUES IRRESPONSIBLE BEHAVIOR IN SEA, AIR- PENTAGON OFFICIAL
Chinese mainland will not confirm in advance how to counter Pelosi's provocation either. But the US and Taiwan authorities will definitely pay a high price for her visit. This will be ultimately a military game, a good show full of suspense. pic.twitter.com/wQZ84TmIDz— Hu Xijin 胡锡进 (@HuXijin_GT) July 21, 2022
Though Biden days ago said that the Pentagon didn't think a Pelosi trip to Taiwan was "a good idea" at this time, the White House kept mum when pressed on the issue in a Monday briefing:
"The administration routinely provides members of Congress with information and context for potential travel, including geopolitical and security considerations," White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said, without responding directly to Pelosi’s possible plans. "Members of Congress will make their own decisions."
Ironically, as we noted earlier, Pelosi appears to be receiving most vocal support from Republican China hawks, with the latest being Nebraska Senator Ben Sasse. "Speaker Pelosi should go to Taiwan and President Biden should make it abundantly clear to Chairman Xi that there’s not a damn thing the Chinese Communist Party can do about it," he said, weighing in on the trip. "No more feebleness and self-deterrence," he emphasized.
As Patrick Buchannan notes...
If Pelosi postpones or cancels the visit, it will be seen as a U.S. climb-down in the face of Chinese indignation and protest, and an affront to our friends in Taiwan.
Around the Asia-Pacific rim, the word will be, “The Americans, faced with China’s firmness, backed down.”
But if the visit goes forward, China is publicly committed to respond. Either way, relations between our countries will likely suffer, and perhaps seriously, if the Chinese opt for a military response to a Pelosi visit.
However this collision plays out, the U.S. is paying the price for having adopted, decades ago, a policy of building up China in the hope and expectation that Beijing would evolve into a benign and friendly rival and competitor of the United States.