Published On: Thu, Jul 28th, 2022

Pelosi leading delegation to Asia Friday with Taiwan visit still undecided

WASHINGTON — House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is leading an official congressional delegation to Asia on Friday, two sources said, though it’s unclear if the trip will include a stop in Taiwan.

One of the sources who had reviewed the itinerary on Thursday afternoon said it listed a Taiwan visit as “tentative,” though the trip will include visits to Asian allies Japan, South Korea, Malaysia and Singapore.

Bloomberg News first reported that Pelosi’s delegation is departing on Friday, the last day the House is in session before its monthlong August recess.

In another development, Rep. Rick Larsen, D-Wash., said Chinese officials were pressuring him to try to halt the Pelosi trip to Taiwan. He told NBC News that an official from the Chinese Embassy called his office and demanded that he tell the speaker to call the trip off.

On Monday, China’s consulate general based in San Francisco delivered a similar message to Larsen in person during a long-planned meeting in his Seattle district.

“He brought it up as well and made that request,” Larsen, co-chair of the bipartisan U.S.-China Working Group, said in an interview. “I think it’s a gross miscalculation on the part of the Chinese to try to pressure any member of Congress on any travel anywhere, much less this trip, if it’s occurring.” 

Pelosi has invited senior lawmakers to join her on the trip, including Foreign Affairs Chairman Gregory Meeks, D-N.Y., and Veterans Affairs Chairman Mark Takano, D-Calif., who led a delegation of lawmakers to Taiwan last year.

Takano declined to comment about the trip when approached by NBC News on Thursday afternoon. Reps. Michael McCaul, R-Texas, and Anna Eshoo, D-Calif., told NBC they also had been invited by Pelosi but could not make the trip.

Pelosi spokesman Drew Hammill also declined to comment. The speaker’s office has a policy of not discussing any international travel by lawmakers in advance, citing security concerns.

Earlier reports that Pelosi may visit Taiwan sparked international headlines and stern warnings from Beijing that it would carry out a “forceful” response if she sets foot on the democratic island of 24 million people, which China sees as under its control.

Some of the threats have been aimed at Pelosi herself. “If the US can’t restrain her, let China restrain her & punish her,” Hu Xjin, former editor of the Chinese state newspaper Global Times, tweeted. “PLA Air Force will surely make her visit a disgrace to herself and to the US.”

One of the sources who spoke with NBC said Pelosi had been hosting meetings in her office all week about the Asia trip and the Taiwan controversy. The source said discussions around a potential visit were extremely delicate given the possibility of military escalation.

“The Chinese could always make a miscalculation; cowboys could miscalculate,” the source said. “And you have our folks who are going to do what they are trained to do to ensure security.”

President Joe Biden, who spoke to Chinese President Xi Jinping on Thursday, had raised concerns about Pelosi possibly traveling to Taiwan. He said over the weekend that U.S. military officials have told him that visiting Taiwan “is not a good idea right now.”

Tensions over Taiwan were among the issues that Biden and Xi discussed by phone.

In their readout of the two-hour-plus call, the Chinese used tough rhetoric to warn against any U.S. support for Taiwan’s independence.

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

Lawmakers from both parties rallied behind Pelosi, however, urging her to make the trip and emphasize U.S. support for the self-governing island.

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