US officials say if House Speaker Nancy Pelosi goes to Taiwan, the military will increase its movement of forces and assets in the Indo-Pacific region as Presidents Biden and Xi prepare to talk on Thursday.
Presidents Joe Biden and Xi Jinping are set to speak amid new tension between Washington and Beijing over China's claims on Taiwan.
The planned talks between the two leaders on Thursday — the fifth in a series of regular check-ins — have been in the works for weeks.
But the possibility of a visit to Taiwan by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the top congressional Democrat and second in line of succession to the presidency, has added fresh strain to the complicated relationship.
Pelosi hasn't confirmed plans to visit Taiwan, but Biden last week told reporters that US military officials believed it was "not a good idea" for the speaker to visit the island at the moment.
US officials told The Associated Press that if Pelosi goes to Taiwan, the military would increase its movement of forces and assets in the Indo-Pacific region.
They declined to provide details, but said that fighter jets, ships, surveillance assets and other military systems would likely be used to provide overlapping rings of protection for her flight to Taiwan and any time on the ground there.
'Support for Taiwan'
Pelosi would be the highest-ranking US elected official to visit Taiwan since Republican Newt Gingrich visited the island in 1997 when he served as House speaker.
“It’s important for us to show support for Taiwan,” Pelosi said. “None of us have ever said we’re for independence when it comes to Taiwan. That’s up to Taiwan to decide.”
Administration officials have privately stressed to Pelosi that traveling to Taiwan could further complicate a delicate status quo.
Beijing is warning that it will take “forceful measures” should Pelosi visit the self-ruled island of Taiwan that China claims as part of its territory.
Chinese officials said a visit by Pelosi would be viewed as a change in US policy and treated as a provocation.
“If the US insists on going its own way, China will take forceful measures to resolutely respond and counter it, and we will do what we say,” said Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin.