Rep. Nancy Pelosi’s office released an itinerary for the House speaker’s planned trip to Asia that listed at least four stops — but made no mention of Taiwan.
Pelosi on Sunday set off for the Indo-Pacific, where she is leading a delegation of five Democratic lawmakers focused on “mutual security, economic partnership and democratic governance” in the region, according to a news release from her office.
The delegation includes Democratic Reps. Gregory W. Meeks (N.Y.), Mark Takano (Calif.), Suzan DelBene (Wash.), Raja Krishnamoorthi (Ill.) and Andy Kim (N.J.). The delegation will visit Singapore, Malaysia, South Korea and Japan, according to the release.
Several Republican lawmakers were invited to join the trip but all declined, according to a person familiar with the plans who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss them. Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Tex.), the ranking Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, confirmed to NBC News last week that Pelosi had invited him on the trip — which included Taiwan, he said — but that he had to decline because of a personal scheduling conflict.
Ever since the Financial Times reported earlier this month that the American delegation would visit Taiwan, Pelosi has not confirmed whether she would be going, citing security. A spokesperson for Pelosi could not immediately be reached for comment early Sunday.
Pelosi, 82, planned in April to visit Taiwan, but that trip was postponed after she tested positive for the coronavirus.
Joanne Ou, a spokesperson for Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said early Sunday that she had “no further information to share with the media at this moment, nor have any comments on this matter.”
The White House has attempted to discourage a trip by Pelosi to Taiwan over fears that it could provoke China and spark a crisis in the Taiwan Strait. If Pelosi does go, she would become the first U.S. House speaker to travel to Taiwan since Rep. Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) did so in 1997.
Chinese state media seized on Pelosi’s trip announcement while continuing to reiterate a warning from its Ministry of Defense that the People’s Liberation Army would “not sit idly by” should she visit Taiwan. The topic was trending on Weibo, the Chinese microblogging platform, Sunday afternoon local time.
State media on Sunday also quoted Shen Jinke, a spokesman for China’s air force, as saying that Beijing will “resolutely safeguard national sovereignty and territorial integrity” when it comes to Taiwan. Shen reportedly said China’s air force has a variety of fighter jets capable of circling “the precious island of our motherland,” according to Reuters.
Pelosi’s itinerary became sort of a game for some, as her flight at one point became the most-tracked flight on Flightradar24, a real-time flight tracking web service.
Pelosi and the visiting lawmakers stopped in Hawaii on Saturday to refuel at the start of their trip, her office said. They received a briefing from military leaders of the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, and visited the Pearl Harbor National Memorial and the USS Arizona.
“In Singapore, Malaysia, South Korea and Japan, our delegation will hold high-level meetings to discuss how we can further advance our shared interests and values,” Pelosi said in a statement. The release said meeting topics would include trade, security, public health, climate change, human rights and democratic governance.
“Under the strong leadership of President Biden, America is firmly committed to smart, strategic engagement in the region, understanding that a free and flourishing Indo-Pacific is crucial to prosperity in our nation and around the globe,” Pelosi added.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has prompted Taiwan to take steps to bolster its military readiness against a possible attack from China. The United States has for decades not taken a position on the status of Taiwan’s sovereignty, and the White House has asserted repeatedly that the United States opposes any unilateral changes to the status quo.
Both Democratic and Republican lawmakers have spoken out in support of Pelosi visiting Taiwan. McCaul, the Republican who said he was invited on the trip, told NBC News that any member of Congress who wanted to go to Taiwan should, as “it shows political deterrence to President Xi.”
On ABC’s “This Week” on Sunday, Rep. Ritchie Torres (D-N.Y.) said the decision was Pelosi’s to make “and hers alone.”
“We have to be careful not to send the message that the United States can easily be bullied by China or can be intimidated by bellicose rhetoric, because if we allow ourselves to be bullied, then it will never stop,” Torres said.
Sammy Westfall contributed to this report.