TAIPEI, July 29 (AP): The crisis sparked by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s potential visit to Taiwan misses a key point, experts say: that the real focus should be on how the United States and China manage their differences so the risks of confrontation don’t spiral out of control.
News of a possible visit by Pelosi has set off intense speculation about China’s potential diplomatic and military responses. But for Taiwan, the visit — if it occurs — would be merely the latest point of strife in an already tense situation that has shadowed the island democracy for decades.
“The main point is not in Pelosi coming to Taiwan, but it’s to look at how the U.S. and China effectively control the risks that may arise,” said Arthur Zhin-Sheng Wang, a defense studies expert at Taiwan’s Central Police University.
Wang said that Thursday’s call between U.S. President Joe Biden and Chinese leader Xi Jinping was an example of how the two sides can manage their differences through dialogue. The fact that it occurred amid the debate over Pelosi visiting Taiwan was a sign of at least a “basic level of mutual understanding,” he said.
Taiwan, meanwhile, has continued to strike a balance between the two superpowers mainly by keeping quiet, even as tensions have risen.
Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen “has done everything possible to avoid unnecessary provocations while maintaining the integrity of Taiwan’s democracy,” said Vincent Chao, a former director of the political division of Taiwan’s representative office in Washington, D.C.
If her trips goes ahead, Pelosi would be the highest-ranking elected U.S. official to visit Taiwan since Newt Gingrich went there more than 25 years ago.
Experts in Taiwan say they do not expect China to respond with direct military confrontation and that it is important to view the potential visit in context.
“This is not an unnecessary provocation. This is keeping with the precedent that has been established with the U.S. and Taiwan,” Chao said.
For Taiwan’s diplomatically isolated government, any exchange with a foreign political leader is seen as positive.
“We are very grateful to Speaker Pelosi, who has been very supportive and friendly to Taiwan for many years, and we would welcome any friendly foreign guest to visit,” Taiwan’s premier Su Tseng-chang said Wednesday.
China has continued to silence Taiwan on the global stage, opposing all official exchanges between the island and other governments. It has poached Taiwan’s diplomatic allies, including many small island nations, offering them access to Beijing’s resources and support. And China threatens governments that send official visitors to Taiwan, as it has done with France, Lithuania and the European Union, among others.
Pelosi’s visit is no more threatening than Biden’s comments that the U.S. has a military commitment to defend Taiwan, said Natasha Kassam, director of the public opinion and foreign policy program at the Lowy Institute in Australia. Biden has said as much three times, even though U.S. law and policy are more ambiguous. The remarks drew a strong condemnation from Beijing but no military action.