Military helicopters carrying large Taiwanese flags do flyby rehearsals in October 2021 amid escalating tensions between Taipei and Beijing. Photo: AFP / Ceng Shou Yi / NurPhoto

China’s Foreign Ministry and media have warned the United States of serious consequences if it dispatches senior officials to visit Taiwan during the 43rd anniversary of the Taiwan Relations Act on Sunday (April 10.)

Media reports on Thursday said US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi had planned to depart for Japan and Taiwan on Friday, but then tested positive for Covid-19 and has had to postpone her trip. Before Pelosi’s trip was delayed, Chinese media launched a campaign against the US, describing her trip as the biggest provocation to Beijing in 25 years.

Academics and political commentators quoted in state media said China had the ability to seal off the Taiwan Strait and control airports and ports in Taiwan at any time.

China considers Taiwan a renegade province that must eventually be incorporated with the mainland. Political tensions across the Taiwan Strait have been rising this year due to increasing contacts between US and Taiwanese officials and disputes related to US arms sales to Taiwan.

In late January, Taiwan’s Vice-President Lai Ching-te held a brief informal talk with US Vice-President Kamala Harris during a trip to Honduras and a virtual meeting with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi during a stopover in the US.

A week before that, China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) sent 52 military planes into Taiwan’s Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ).

On March 2, a US delegation met with Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen in Taipei. Two days later, former US secretary of state Mike Pompeo gave a speech in Taipei, calling on the US to recognize Taiwan as an independent country.

Mike Pompeo’s visit to Taiwan peeved Beijing. Photo: WikiCommons

Beijing said the US should not cross China’s red line and vowed to retaliate with decisive measures. However, it did not take any action while some Chinese media later claimed China was a peace-loving country.

On Wednesday, the US said it had approved the sale of up to US$95 million worth of military training and equipment to Taiwan. The Pentagon’s Defense Security Cooperation Agency said in a statement that the proposed sale would help to sustain Taiwan’s missile density and ensure readiness for air operations.

On Thursday, media reports said Pelosi was planning to visit Taiwan soon to mark the 43rd anniversary of the Taiwan Relations Act, which was enacted by the US Congress on April 10, 1979, to define non-diplomatic relations between the US and Taiwan.

“China resolutely opposes all forms of official contact between the US and Taiwan,” China’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said in a media briefing. “If Pelosi visits Taiwan, this would gravely violate the one-China principle and the stipulations of the three China-US Joint Communiqués, seriously undermine China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, severely impact the political foundation of China-US relations and send a seriously wrong signal to ‘Taiwan independence’ separatist forces.”

He said the US should abide by the “One China” principle and three China-US Joint Communiqués, immediately cancel Pelosi’s plan to visit Taiwan, stop official contact with Taiwan and fulfill its commitment of not supporting “Taiwan independence” with real actions.

“If the US insists on having its own way, China will take firm and strong measures to resolutely safeguard its sovereignty and territorial integrity. All possible consequences that arise from this will completely be borne by the US side,” Zhao added, without elaborating on the measures that China would take.

Zhao said on Wednesday that China would take firm and robust measures if the US pushed forward with its arms sales plan to Taiwan.

After Zhao commented on Pelosi’s trip to Taiwan, Chinese media on Thursday published several articles and videos, with many opining that China should take control of Taiwan’s airspace on Sunday.

Liu Xiaofei, a pro-Beijing political commentator, said China had the ability to swiftly destroy Taiwan’s defense system, take over the island’s airports and ports, and control Taiwanese cities in a short period of time. Liu said if Pelosi visited Taiwan that Taiwanese people should stay far away from the island’s military bases.

Liu added that after Russia faced setbacks in its military operations in Ukraine, the US had gained the confidence to challenge China over Taiwan. He said the PLA had the courage and ability to fight against the US army if a conflict erupted over Taiwan.

Huang Rihan, an associate professor at Huaqiao University’s School of International Relations, said in a video that Pelosi’s visit would be the biggest provocation to mainland China since then-House Speaker Newt Gingrich visited Taipei in March 1997. 

Huang said China should not accept growing contacts between the US and Taiwan and that the US had misjudged the situation. He said he agreed with Global Times’ former editor-in-chief Hu Xijin, who said China should seal off the Taiwan Strait, sell weapons to Russia and increase energy imports from Russia.

US Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi. Photo: AFP / Nicholas Kamm

Hu said in a post on Weibo that the PLA should send a large number of planes to fly around Taiwan on Sunday and even fly close to Pelosi’s plane. Hu said if any Chinese warplanes were attacked, the mainland would immediately launch missiles at Taiwan’s military bases.

That’s not necessarily Beijing’s official view, though. A poll commissioned by Foreign Policy magazine and conducted by William & Mary’s Global Research Institute from March 10 to March 14 showed 70.8% of 852 surveyed international relations experts in the US believed China would not use military force against Taiwanese territory or military forces in the next year.

At the same time, 70.6% of the poll’s participants said the US should deploy its military forces to the Taiwan Strait if China attacked Taiwan.

On Thursday, media reports said Pelosi postponed her trip because she tested positive for Covid-19. The 82-year-old politician, who has reportedly received two vaccine doses, was standing close to US President Joe Biden during a recent visit to the White House.

Hu said in his latest post that the PLA planes that were set to “welcome” Pelosi could take a rest.

Read: US delegation visit stirs Taiwan hornet’s nest

Follow Jeff Pao on Twitter at @jeffpao3