U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi held talks with officials in Singapore on Monday at the begining of her Asian tour, as questions swirled over a possible stop in Taiwan that has sparked tension with Beijing.
Pelosi met with Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, President Halimah Yacob and other Cabinet members, according to the Foreign Ministry.
Lee welcomed a U.S. commitment to strong engagement with the region, and the two sides discussed ways to deepen U.S. economic engagement through initiatives such as the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework, the ministry said issuing a statement.
Lee and Pelosi also discussed the latest situation in Ukraine, tensions surrounding Taiwan and mainland China, and climate change, among others, it said. Lee “highlighted the importance of stable U.S.-China relations for regional peace and security,” it added, in an apparent allusion to reports that Pelosi may visit Taiwan.
In a statement over the weekend, Pelosi said she will visit Singapore, Malaysia, South Korea and Japan to discuss trade, the COVID-19 pandemic, climate change, security and “democratic governance.”
She didn’t confirm news reports that she might visit Taiwan, which is claimed by Beijing as its own territory. Chinese President Xi Jinping warned against meddling in Beijing’s dealings with the island in a phone call last week with U.S. President Joe Biden.
In Beijing, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian reiterated the earlier warnings on Monday, saying “there will be serious consequences if she insists on making the visit.” “We are fully prepared for any eventuality,” he said. “The People’s Liberation Army will never sit by idly. China will take strong and resolute measures to safeguard its sovereignty and territorial integrity.”
Pelosi was to attend a cocktail reception later Monday with the American Chamber of Commerce in Singapore. There is no media access to her visit, which has been kept under tight wraps.
She is scheduled to be in Malaysia on Tuesday. A Parliament official, who was not authorized to speak to the media and declined to be identified by name, said Pelosi will call on Malaysian lower house speaker Azhar Azizan Harun. No further details were immediately available.
On Thursday, Pelosi is scheduled to meet with South Korean National Assembly Speaker Kim Jin Pyo in Seoul for talks on security in the Indo-Pacific region, economic cooperation and the climate crisis, Kim’s office said in a statement.
It declined to provide further details about her itinerary, including when she is arriving in South Korea and how long she’ll stay.
Pelosi’s schedule for Wednesday remains unclear and there were no details on when she will head to Japan.
Beijing sees official American contact with Taiwan as encouragement to make the island’s decades-old de facto independence permanent, a step U.S. leaders say they don’t support. Pelosi, head of one of three branches of the U.S. government, would be the highest-ranking elected American official to visit Taiwan since then-Speaker Newt Gingrich in 1997. The Biden administration has tried to assure Beijing there was no reason to “come to blows” and that if such a visit occurred, it would signal no change in U.S. policy.
Taiwan and China split in 1949 after the communists won a civil war on the mainland. Both sides say they are one country but disagree over which government is entitled to national leadership. They have no official relations but the two countries are linked by billions of dollars of trade and investment.