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Nancy Pelosi kicks off high-profile Asia trip with Singapore visit

<i>Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images</i><br/>
Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

By Jessie Yeung and Wayne Chang, CNN

US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and several other Congress members visited Singapore on Monday, their first official stop in a high-profile Asia tour that has attracted international attention over speculation she may visit Taiwan.

The delegation started their two-day visit to the city-state by meeting Singaporean President Halimah Yacob, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan, Singapore’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

During the meeting, they discussed US-Singapore cooperation on a number of issues, including the climate crisis and economic development, according to the statement. It added that Lee “highlighted the importance of stable US-China relations for regional peace and security.” Pelosi is scheduled to attend a cocktail reception held by the American Chamber of Commerce in the city-state later Monday.

Before arriving in the Indo-Pacific, Pelosi’s delegation stopped by Hawaii, according to a statement from her office on Sunday. The delegation also plans to visit Malaysia, South Korea and Japan, where high-level meetings would be held to address “shared interests,” including trade, the Covid-19 pandemic and the climate crisis, according to Pelosi’s office.

The statement and Pelosi’s public itinerary made no mention of Taiwan, but a senior Taiwanese government official and a US official told CNN on Monday that she is expected to visit Taiwan as part of her tour of Asia. It is unclear when exactly Pelosi will land in Taipei.

The stop — the first for a US House speaker in 25 years — comes at a time when US-China relations are already at a low point. The Taiwanese official added that she is expected to stay in Taiwan overnight.

The US official added that Defense Department officials are working around the clock on monitoring any Chinese movements in the region and securing a plan to keep her safe.

Speculation had swirled for weeks that Pelosi, who is second in the line of presidential succession behind the vice president, might have been planning to visit the self-governing democratic island.

China’s Communist Party, which claims Taiwan as part of its territory — despite never having controlled it — has repeatedly warned against Pelosi visiting the island, vowing to take “resolute and forceful measures” if the trip goes ahead.

Some US officials are worried that the reported visit would be met with a military response from China, potentially triggering the worst cross-strait crisis in decades.

During a phone call between US President Joe Biden and Chinese leader Xi Jinping last Thursday, Xi warned the US not to “play with fire” on the Taiwan issue — though neither side confirmed if Pelosi’s reported plans were discussed. Preparation for the call predated reports of the possible trip.

When asked about Pelosi’s possible visit on Monday, Taiwan’s Premier Su Tseng-chang did not confirm whether she might stop there and reiterated that Taipei welcomes foreign guests. “The government warmly welcomes any foreign VIP friends to visit our country,” Su told reporters.

Traveling alongside Pelosi as part of the Congressional delegation are Chairman Gregory Meeks (Chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee), Chairman Mark Takano (Chair of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs), Congresswoman Suzan DelBene, Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi, and Congressman Andy Kim.

This story has been updated with additional developments Monday.

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CNN’s Eric Cheung in Taipei, Taiwan, and Kylie Atwood in Washington, DC, contributed to this report.

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