Pelosi meets Singapore leaders at start of Asia tour

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) — U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi spoke to officials in Singapore on Monday at the start of her Asian tour, as questions swirled about a possible stopover in Taiwan that has fueled tensions with Beijing.

Pelosi met with Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, President Halimah Yacob and other cabinet members, the foreign ministry said.

Lee hailed the United States’ commitment to strong engagement in the region, and the two sides discussed ways to deepen U.S. economic engagement through initiatives such as the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework, a the ministry said in a statement.

Lee and Pelosi also discussed the war in Ukraine, tensions around Taiwan and mainland China and climate change, he said. Lee “stressed the importance of stable relations between the United States and China for regional peace and security,” he added, in an apparent allusion to reports that Pelosi might visit Taiwan.

In a statement over the weekend, Pelosi said she would travel to Singapore, Malaysia, South Korea and Japan to discuss trade, the COVID-19 pandemic, climate change, the security and “democratic governance”.

She did not confirm reports that she may travel to Taiwan, which is claimed by Beijing as its own territory. Chinese President Xi Jinping warned against interfering in Beijing’s relations with the island during a phone call last week with US President Joe Biden.

In Beijing, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian reiterated earlier warnings on Monday, saying “there will be serious consequences if she insists on making the visit.”

He did not specify specific consequences. “We are fully prepared for any eventuality,” he said. “The People’s Liberation Army will never stand idly by. China will take strong and resolute measures to safeguard its sovereignty and territorial integrity. »

Pelosi was scheduled to attend a cocktail party later Monday with the American Chamber of Commerce in Singapore. The media does not have access to his visit, which was kept secret.

She must be in Malaysia on Tuesday. A parliament official, who was not authorized to speak to the media and declined to be identified by name, said Pelosi would call Malaysian lower house speaker Azhar Azizan Harun. No other details were immediately available.

Pelosi is due to meet South Korean National Assembly Speaker Kim Jin Pyo in Seoul on Thursday for talks on Indo-Pacific security, economic cooperation and the climate crisis, Kim’s office said in a statement. a statement.

He declined to provide further details on her itinerary, including when she will arrive in South Korea and how long she will stay.

Pelosi’s schedule for Wednesday remains unclear and there are no details on when she will travel to Japan.

Beijing sees official US contact with Taiwan as encouragement to make the island’s decades-old de facto independence permanent, a step US leaders say they do not support. Pelosi, head of one of the three branches of the US government, would be the highest elected US official to visit Taiwan since then-President Newt Gingrich in 1997.

The Biden administration tried to assure Beijing that there was no reason to “come to blows” and that if such a visit took place, it would signal no change in American policy.

Taiwan and China separated in 1949 after the communists won a civil war on the mainland. Both sides say they are one country but disagree on which government is entitled to national leadership. They have no official relations but are linked by billions of dollars in trade and investment.

The United States transferred diplomatic recognition from Taipei to Beijing in 1979, but maintains informal relations with the island. Washington is obligated by federal law to ensure that Taiwan has the means to defend itself.

Washington’s “one China policy” indicates that it takes no position on the status of the two sides but wants their dispute to be resolved peacefully. Beijing promotes an alternative “one China principle” that says they are one country and the Communist Party is its leader.

A visit to Taiwan would be a career cornerstone for Pelosi, who is increasingly using his position in Congress as an American envoy on the world stage. She has long challenged China on human rights and wanted to visit Taiwan earlier this year.

Pelosi’s delegation includes U.S. Representatives Gregory Meeks, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee; Mark Takano, Chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee; Suzan DelBene, vice chair of the House Ways and Means Committee; Raja Krishnamoorthi, member of the House Standing Select Committee on Intelligence and Chairman of the Economic and Consumer Policy Subcommittee of the House Oversight and Reform Committee; and Andy Kim, a member of the House Armed Services and Foreign Affairs Committees.

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Soo reported from Hong Kong. Associated Press writer Kim Hyung-jin in Seoul, South Korea, contributed to this report.

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