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Taiwan off the itinerary, US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi begins Asia tour

This comes after a week of heightened US-China tensions and Chinese President Xi Jinping's warning to US President Joe Biden to not ‘play with fire’ over Taiwan.

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New Delhi: After a week of heightened US-China tensions over US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s potential trip to Taiwan, it appears that she will not be visiting the island nation, which Beijing views as part of its territory.

Pelosi, the third most powerful politician in America, was reportedly planning a visit to Taiwan as part of her tour of the Indo-Pacific region that officially kicked off Sunday.

Taiwan was missing from Pelosi’s itinerary, which mentioned other Asian countries like Singapore, Malaysia, South Korea and Japan.

“Speaker Nancy Pelosi is leading a Congressional delegation to the Indo-Pacific region, including visits to Singapore, Malaysia, South Korea and Japan. The trip will focus on mutual security, economic partnership and democratic governance in the Indo-Pacific region,” read a statement issued by her office Sunday.

This comes three days after US President Joe Biden and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping had a phone conversation, during which the latter warned against “playing with fire” over Taiwan.

“Those who play with fire will perish by it,” China’s foreign ministry had quoted the Chinese president as saying. “It is hoped that the US will be clear-eyed about this.”

Had Pelosi gone through with the visit, she would have been the highest ranking American official to go to the island since 1997, when then speaker Newt Gingrich had made the trip.

The controversy over Pelosi’s potential visit to Taiwan came at a time when the US-China ties have already been under strain over other issues like the Russia-Ukraine war, as well as an ongoing trade war between Washington and Beijing.

China sees any official contact with Taiwan as an acceptance of the island’s democratically elected government. Though the US has been supportive of Taiwan’s democratic government, it also walks the tightrope of the ‘One China’ policy, in which it acknowledges that there is one China of which Taiwan is a part.

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‘Reaffirm America’s commitment to allies’

Pelosi kicked off her tour of Asia by describing it as a reaffirmation of the US’ commitment to its allies in the region.

“I’m leading a Congressional delegation to the Indo-Pacific to reaffirm America’s unshakeable commitment to our allies & friends in the region. In Singapore, Malaysia, South Korea & Japan, we’ll hold high-level meetings to discuss how we can further our shared interests & values,” she tweeted Sunday. 

On Saturday, ahead of the visit, China said it was conducting military exercises off its coast opposite Taiwan.

The same day, Chinese commentator and former editor-in-chief of state-owned tabloid Global Times Hu Xijin, deleted a tweet warning of military retaliation should US fighter jets escort Pelosi on a visit to Taiwan.

Twitter subsequently blocked his account as the tweet was deemed to have violated the platform’s rules.

(Edited by Gitanjali Das)

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