“Any member who wants to go must do so. It shows political deterrence for President Xi,” Texas Representative Michael McCaul, the top Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, who had to decline due to a scheduling conflict, said. “But she also needs to pay attention to the military if it’s going to set off a backlash and things are going to escalate.”
Mr Biden, who has rocked China several times since taking office by saying he would use force to defend Taiwan, said last week the military thought it was the wrong time for Ms Pelosi to leave. There has been talk of potential danger, even speculation that China would send fighter jets to shadow its plane. Some on Capitol Hill see this as an attempt by the White House to pressure Ms. Pelosi to cancel such a trip, the first by a speaker in 25 years, but Republicans and some Democrats have urged her to to continue rather than allow Beijing to dictate US actions.
Gene. Mark A. Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters traveling with him in Australia on Wednesday that he would provide security for any journey the speaker makes, as the armed forces traditionally do. “If a decision has been made that President Pelosi or anyone else will travel and they have requested military support, we will do whatever it takes to make their visit safe,” he said.
The conflict comes as the United States wants to compete more economically and politically with China. The Senate on Wednesday passed a measure to invest in semiconductor manufacturing to revitalize US industry and reduce reliance on Chinese products. Representative Adam B. Schiff, a senior Democrat from California, on Wednesday introduced separate legislation authorizing the Biden administration to impose sanctions on Chinese officials or entities aiding Russia’s war in Ukraine.
These actions have fueled resentment in Beijing, analysts say. “The Chinese see Washington as a deliberate cause of crisis,” said Susan A. Thornton, a senior fellow at the Paul Tsai China Center at Yale Law School and a longtime career diplomat who has dealt with Asia policy. “I’m not sure what Biden could say that would convince them otherwise.”
But China has responded more aggressively than in the past. Ms. Pelosi first announced a plan to go to Taiwan in April, only to postpone it after she tested positive for the coronavirus, and Beijing took little notice at the time. In addition, a succession of other high-level Americans have visited recently, including senior members of Congress and two former defense ministers, Jim Mattis and Mark T. Esper, without provoking a crisis.