A crisis over Taiwan if Nancy Pelosi decides to visit? Last year, an old and thoroughly debunked claim made the rounds on social media that Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi had ordered a 200-seat Boeing 757 to fly her home every weekend to California. What is true is that after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, it was agreed by the Department of Defense (DoD) and the White House that the speaker of the house (regardless of who held the position) would fly using military transport for security reasons. The speaker is second in line of succession after the vice president.
Most times, Speaker Pelosi actually does fly ‘commercial,’ and images posted on social media have even shown her in coach.
Where the speaker might actually get the special treatment is during her potential visit to Taiwan, and it was announced over the weekend that the U.S. military was considering “moving aircraft carriers or sending fighter planes for close air support.” According to an op-ed from Josh Rogin of The Washington Post, “The U.S. military is devising options for protecting Pelosi’s delegation, who—as is normal procedure for congressional delegations to Taiwan—would be flying on a military plane. The measures under consideration include moving aircraft carriers or sending fighter planes for close air support. That, in turn, could be misinterpreted by the Chinese side as an aggressive rather than a defensive measure.”
The call to send the warships and combat aircraft came amid warnings by Chinese officials that the scheduled trip by Pelosi could “trigger a military clash” between Chinese and U.S. forces.
News of the trip first emerged last week.
Speaker at Odds with White House
What is especially noteworthy is that the White House has openly clashed with Speaker Pelosi over the planned trip, even as Pelosi has been among the Biden administration’s staunchest supporters. Politico reported that President Joe Biden asserted that the military “thinks it’s not a good idea right now” for her to make the trip.
It was further reported that the White House and DoD officials have been quietly advising on the risks of such a trip by the third-highest ranking U.S. official to the self-governing island, to Pelosi’s office. Pentagon officials believe the trip could increase tensions in the region, especially as the speaker was planning to use a military aircraft – standard for any congressional delegation – to the island.
“(To the Chinese) it looks like a military operation,” warned one U.S. official, speaking to Politico on the condition of anonymity.
Biden was far less direct, telling reporters last week only, “The military thinks it’s not a good idea right now. But I don’t know what the status of it is.”
Bags Are Packed?
Perhaps not wanting to look weak on the matter, Pelosi has largely dodged any questions as to whether the trip will actually happen, but confirmed that the president’s concern stems from the military being “afraid our plane would get shot down, or something like that, by the Chinese.”
She added that she didn’t believe the trip would be interpreted by Beijing as a provocation, however.
“It’s important for us to show support for Taiwan,” Pelosi told reporters. “None of us have ever said we’re for independence when it comes to Taiwan. That’s up to Taiwan to decide.”
Noteworthy too, is that Speaker Pelosi has received more support from her Republican colleagues than from the White House. Pelosi has a long history of pushing back against China.
“I don’t always agree with her, but on this one I applaud it,” Rep. Michael McCaul of Texas, the top Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said in an interview. “It’s important that we show up in Taiwan and demonstrate to China that we are supportive. That’s a very strong statement for a speaker to go to Taiwan.”
At this point, Pelosi should show Beijing that even as the United States may be divided politically, we can find common cause and she should invite McCaul to join her on the trip, especially given China’s reaction to date.
“If the U.S. insists on going its own way, China will take forceful measures to resolutely respond and counter it, and we will do what we say,” said Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin.
Pelosi’s trip, first reported by the Financial Times, would be the first visit by a House speaker to Taiwan since 1997.
A Senior Editor for 1945, Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer who has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers and websites. He regularly writes about military hardware, firearms history, cybersecurity and international affairs. Peter is also a Contributing Writer for Forbes. You can follow him on Twitter: @PeterSuciu.