US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Tuesday commenced her controversial visit to Taiwan, the highest-level US visit to Taiwan in 25 years, despite China's open condemnation responding with a flurry of military exercises, summoning the US ambassador in Beijing, and announcing the suspension of several agricultural imports from Taiwan.
The visit, which further strained the country's relationship with China while stirring a threat to peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait, has drawn widespread scrutiny and speculation.
Following is the Washington Post's view on the matter.
Successful foreign policy combines high principle with smart, timely execution. Tuesday's visit to show solidarity with Taiwan by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) demonstrated the former — but not the latter. The foreseeable reaction from China, which considers Taiwan a wayward province, is underway — including the announcement of provocative naval live-fire exercises in the island's territorial waters after Ms Pelosi's visit ends. President Biden must limit the short-term damage and counter a likely increase in long-term Chinese pressure on Taiwan.
Of course we share Ms Pelosi's strong support for democratic Taiwan, her condemnation of the Chinese communist dictatorship and her belief, as she put it in an op-ed for The Post, that "it is essential that America and our allies make clear that we never give in to autocrats." What we do not comprehend is her insistence on demonstrating her support in this way, at this time, despite warnings — from a president of her own party — that the geopolitical situation is already unsettled enough. However much the 82-year-old Ms Pelosi might want a capstone event for her time as speaker — before a likely GOP victory in November ends it — going to Taiwan now, as President Xi Jinping of China is orchestrating his third term, was unwise.
Admittedly, Mr Biden himself mishandled the situation by blurting out the fact "the military" was against Ms Pelosi's visit. This blunder made it harder for Ms Pelosi to change plans without losing face and, more important, harder for Mr Xi not to ramp up his response once she decided to go. Far better for the president to have told Ms Pelosi, privately, personally and unequivocally, not to do it.
The top global priority for the United States now is Russia's war in Ukraine and its accompanying fallout in global food and energy markets. The Biden administration can ill afford any distractions, much less a repeat of the 1995-1996 Taiwan Strait Crisis, which many Americans have forgotten, but which lasted eight months and two days. It began with Chinese missile firings off Taiwan in retaliation for a symbolic gesture — a visit by Taiwan's president to Cornell University — and did not ease until after the Clinton administration mounted an enormous deterrent naval deployment.
China ultimately backed off. The Biden administration is now in the position of having to hope it can similarly maintain both peace and Taiwan's territorial integrity against a China that is vastly stronger than it was a quarter-century ago and led not by the cautious Jiang Zemin but by the aggressive Mr Xi US officials, and Ms Pelosi, have communicated that her trip implies no change to the United States' one-China policy. In a deterrent mode, the president has deployed a carrier group east of Taiwan.
The United States must never sacrifice its principles or cave to Chinese threats. All the more reason to prepare carefully where and when to confront China. No thanks to Ms Pelosi, the Biden administration finds itself forced to react and improvise instead.
Editorials represent the views of The Washington Post as an institution, as determined through debate among members of the Editorial Board, based in the Opinions section and separate from the newsroom.