Biden 'Respects' Pelosi Taiwan Decision After Saying Military Disagreed

The White House has said that President Joe Biden respects House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's decision to travel to Taiwan, even after the U.S. leader initially said the Pentagon disagreed with the trip.

Asked about the president's views on Pelosi's visit, National Security Council Strategic Communications Coordinator John Kirby told reporters Tuesday that Biden "respects the Speaker's decision to travel to Taiwan."

"He respects her decision to go and he believes it is perfectly consistent with American policy going back decades," Kirby said.

Pelosi's travel marks the first such trip by a Speaker of the House in 25 years. Reports of her trip first leaked to the public sphere via a Financial Times article that cited sources familiar with the matter. Pelosi's office did not confirm the visit until she arrived in Taiwan on Tuesday. Biden weighed in on the issues in a July 27 exchange with reporters.

"Well, I think that the military thinks it's not a good idea right now," Biden said at the time. "But I don't know what the status of it is."

President, Joe, Biden, and, Speaker, Nancy, Pelosi
U.S. Speaker of the House Representative Nancy Pelosi speaks as she introduces U.S. President Joe Biden during the 2022 House Democratic Caucus Issues Conference March 11, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Alex Wong/Getty Images

The administration has largely avoided discussing whether or not it approved of Pelosi's trip, which has served to ratchet up tensions with China. Beijing has called the trip a violation of Chinese sovereignty, as China claims the island as its own. In an apparent response to Pelosi's visit, Beijing has announced a series of live-fire exercises in the waters surrounding Taiwan on Thursday.

The White House struck a harmonious tone on U.S.-China relations in a recap of a recent call between the presidents of the two nations.

Kirby said Tuesday that Biden's fifth and latest call with Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping "is an indication of how much the president understands and respects the consequential nature of this bilateral relationship," a relationship that Kirby characterized as "one of the most consequential not just in the region but in the world."

At the same time, he said the U.S. did not want to see the fallout of the visit "spiral into any kind of a crisis or conflict," he said recently announced Chinese military actions in the vicinity of Taiwan were "right in line with what we had anticipated" and that the severity of the fallout of the visit would ultimately "depend a lot on how China behaves over coming days and weeks."

Washington broke off official relations with Taipei to forge ties with Beijing in 1979, three decades after the People's Republic of China was established by the Chinese Communist Party in a victory over nationalists who went on to establish a rival government in Taiwan called the Republic of China. The U.S. maintained unofficial relations with Taiwan, however, in the form of political contacts and military support that has expanded in recent years.

These ties have long irked Beijing, but Pelosi's visit has stirred an especially high level of opposition given her position as third-in-line for the U.S. presidency.

As the People's Liberation Army announced a series of exercises in the air and seas surrounding Taiwan, the Chinese Foreign Ministry condemned Pelosi's travel as "a serious violation" of the commitments that served as the foundation for the U.S.-China relationship.

"It has a severe impact on the political foundation of China-U.S. relations," the ministry said, "and seriously infringes upon China's sovereignty and territorial integrity."

The statement warned that the U.S. executive branch "has the responsibility" to stop such visits and that "China will definitely take all necessary measures to resolutely safeguard its sovereignty and territorial integrity in response to the U.S. Speaker's visit."

"All the consequences arising therefrom must be borne by the U.S. side and the 'Taiwan independence' separatist forces," it added.

This is a developing news story. More information will be added as it becomes available.