House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) is planning to visit Taiwan later this year, and the Pentagon is preparing for his trip, Punchbowl News reported on Monday.
The report said that the trip would likely take place in the spring, and the Biden administration is looking to be more proactive about McCarthy’s visit than it was when former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) traveled to Taipei in August.
Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan was viewed in Beijing as a major provocation, and it sparked the largest-ever Chinese military drills around the island. The exercises included China firing missiles over Taiwan and simulating a blockade of the island, both unprecedented actions.
China has kept up the military pressure on Taiwan since Pelosi’s visit, and its warplanes regularly now cross the median line, an informal barrier that divides the two sides of the Taiwan Strait. Before Pelosi’s trip, China barely crossed the line. Now, it’s an almost-daily occurrence.
Beijing views the US House speaker visiting Taiwan as an affront to the one-China policy and the understanding the US and China reached in 1979, when Washington severed formal relations with Taipei.
Proponents of Pelosi’s visit argued that there is a precedent since Newt Gingrich traveled to Taiwan as House speaker in 1997, but US-China relations were much better at the time. Gingrich made the trip to Taiwan after visiting mainland China.
McCarthy and other Republicans have said they will make confronting China a priority as they now have control of the House and established a new committee to deal with issues related to Beijing. But increasing support for Taiwan has bipartisan support as the Biden administration continues to take steps to boost ties with Taipei despite warnings from China that the issue is a “red line.”
The 2023 National Defense Authorization Act included unprecedented military aid for Taiwan, and China responded to President Biden’s signing of the bill by launching more major drills around Taiwan. McCarthy’s visit will almost certainly spark more Chinese military pressure on Taiwan, which China hawks in Washington will use to justify more support for the island.