Speaker Pelosi, Congresswoman DelBene visit Taiwan amid threats of Chinese retaliation

U.S. House Speaker Nancy Peloisi has now arrived in Taiwan as part of a visit that comes despite threats of military action by China.

She is the highest U.S. elected official to visit the country in more than 25 years, and Washington Congresswoman Suzan DelBene is also on the trip.

Both the speaker and the congresswoman had not said a word about the visit until Tuesday morning.

A statement from the Speaker’s office reads in part:

“Our Congressional delegation’s visit to Taiwan honors America’s wavering commitment to supporting Taiwan’s democracy … America’s solidarity with the 23 million people of Taiwan is more important today than ever, as the world faces a choice between autocracy and democracy.”

Congresswoman DelBene’s office also released the following statement:

“Congresswoman DelBene arrived in Taiwan with Speaker Pelosi’s congressional delegation to Asia today. Taiwan is an important economic partner to the U.S. and a champion of democracy in the region. This visit underscores our commitment to Taiwan. It is also one of Washington state’s top trading partners. She is honored to be welcomed to Taiwan.”

KIRO 7′s Ranji Sinha spoke with David Bachman, a professor at the University of Washington and an expert on U.S.-China relations, about the congressional delegation’s trip to Asia on Monday.

“They’re trying to play it down, they’re trying to not make it seem like a big deal,” said Bachman. “But China’s not going to let it not be a big deal.”

The speaker’s plane arrived in Taipei on Tuesday morning after it flew around the Philippines, avoiding the South China Sea.

Chinese officials had warned Pelosi not to go to Taiwan, which China claims as part of its territory, but the island has been a self-ruling democracy since the late 1940s.

“It’s a time of growing domestic problems in the PRC, so taking a tough line on this plays to Chinese Nationalism and it makes Xi look tough if he’s able to deter a Taiwan visit,” said Bachman.

But, Bachman says the Asian tour by members of Congress is important in showing that the U.S. will support Democratic countries.

On the ground, Speaker Pelosi was greeted by Taiwanese officials and there were crowds gathered outside the Grand Hyatt Taipei waiting to see her motorcade arrive at the hotel.

DelBene is the Vice Chair of the Ways and Means Committee, so she does help trade policy which could be a potential reason for her to visit the Indo-Pacific to strengthen relationships.

Bachman said he agrees that could be her goal, but at the end of the day she’s not in business and doesn’t actually cut the deals herself.

He imagines Delbene’s participation in the trip could help and can’t hurt trade reactions between Asia, Washington state and the U.S.

“I don’t think there will be any particular blowback on … Congresswoman DelBene and Washington state, that China will or won’t buy Boeing jets for a variety of reasons or buy our grain for a variety of reasons,” said Bachman. “Her being part of the Pelosi trip will not be a major issue.”