White House says US will ‘not be intimidated’ by China but reaffirms it does not back Taiwan independence

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The White House on Monday said the Biden administration will “not be intimidated” by China’s “saber-rattling” even while reaffirming the United States does not back Taiwan’s independence, amid reports that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi plans to travel to Taiwan this week. 

White House National Security Council coordinator for strategic communications John Kirby warned that China conducted exercises over the weekend, amid reports that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi plans to travel to Taiwan this week.

“China appears to be positioning itself to potentially take further steps in the coming days and, perhaps, over a long time horizon,” Kirby said Monday. “These potential steps include military provocation, such as firing missiles in the Taiwan Strait or around Taiwan.”

Pentagon spokesman John Kirby speaks during a briefing at the Pentagon in Washington, Friday, April 29, 2022.  

Pentagon spokesman John Kirby speaks during a briefing at the Pentagon in Washington, Friday, April 29, 2022.   ( (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta))

Kirby said those operations “break historical norms such as large-scale air entry into Taiwan’s air defense identification zone.”

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The last time Beijing fired missiles into the Taiwan Strait was in 1995 and 1996, Kirby said.

“We and countries around the world believe escalation serves no one,” Kirby said. “Beijing’s actions could have unintended consequences that only serve to increase tensions.”

“Meanwhile,” Kirby said. “Our actions are not threatening and they break no new ground.”

Pelosi, D-Calif., is visiting the Indo-Pacific region this week. Her tour itinerary includes Singapore, Malaysia, South Korea and Japan. Her itinerary makes no mention of Taiwan. Her Asia tour comes after President Joe Biden said last month that U.S. military officials believe a visit to Taiwan is “not a good idea.”

Beijing views Taiwan as part of its own territory, and Chinese President Xi Jinping warned Biden in a phone call last week that the U.S. must not “play with fire” regarding China’s involvement with Taiwan.

“Those who play with fire will perish by it. It is hoped that the U.S. will be clear-eyed about this,” a Chinese readout of the call said.

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Chinese officials have said Pelosi visiting Taiwan would violate the One China Policy and would constitute aiding an illegal rebellion. A Chinese state media personality even suggested shooting down the Speaker’s plane if she does visit.

“Nothing about this potential visit … would change the status quo and the world should reject any PRC effort to use it to do so,” Kirby explained.

“We will not take the bait or engage in saber-rattling,” he continued. “At the same time, we will not be intimidated.”

Kirby said the U.S. will continue to operate in the seas and the skies of the Western Pacific “as we have for decades,” and will continue to support “Cross-Strait peace, stability, support Taiwan, of course, defend a free and open Indo-Pacific, and still seek to maintain lines of communication with Beijing.” 

He added: “All of that is important, and all of it is preserving the status quo.”

Kirby said administration officials expect to see Beijing to “continue to use inflammable rhetoric and disinformation in the coming days.”

“The United States, by contrast, will act with transparency,” Kirby said, noting they will answer questions and “give the facts.” “We are also committed to keeping open lines of communication with Beijing.”

Kirby stressed that “we don’t support Taiwan independence,” and said the Biden administration has “been nothing but clear with the Chinese about where we stand on the issues and the One China policy and our support for a free and open Indo-Pacific.”

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The “One China policy” refers to the U.S. recognition of the People’s Republic of China as the sole legal government of China, but it only acknowledges, without endorsing, Beijing’s claim that Taiwan is part of China.

The U.S. does not have official relations with Taiwan, although it has increased engagements with the island and has tried to discourage China from invading. Pelosi would be the highest-ranking elected U.S. official to visit the island since then-Speaker Newt Gingrich in 1997.

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi of Calif., speaks during a news conference, Thursday, May 19, 2022, on Capitol Hill in Washington.

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi of Calif., speaks during a news conference, Thursday, May 19, 2022, on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

The Chinese military has frequently sent planes into Taiwan’s airspace to test the region’s air defense zone. And on Saturday, China held live-fire military exercises in the Taiwan Strait.

The White House said last week that there is no reason for China to view Pelosi’s potential visit as a change in U.S. policy.

In this photo released by China's Xinhua News Agency, Chinese president Xi Jinping delivers a speech via video link to the opening ceremony of the Bo'ao Forum For Asia in Bo'ao in southern China's Hainan Province, Thursday, April 21, 2022. Xi said his government supports talks to resolve international disputes, but opposes the use of sanctions. 

In this photo released by China’s Xinhua News Agency, Chinese president Xi Jinping delivers a speech via video link to the opening ceremony of the Bo’ao Forum For Asia in Bo’ao in southern China’s Hainan Province, Thursday, April 21, 2022. Xi said his government supports talks to resolve international disputes, but opposes the use of sanctions.  (Huang Jingwen/Xinhua via AP)

Kirby, on Monday, said that the Biden administration had “direct conversations with the speaker and her staff before she left at various levels in the national security establishment.” 

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“The president did not speak directly with the speaker about this trip,” Kirby said, noting that the administration shared “context, analysis, facts, and information about her overseas travel, which is completely consistent with the way we do it in the past.” 

Kirby stressed that “there’s no reason for this, to be honest.” 

Fox News’ Ronn Blitzer and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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