Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on Tuesday defended Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s (D-Calif.) controversial visit to Taiwan amid intense opposition from China and what he called “counterproductive” deterrence from the White House.
“I believe she has every right to go and it’s been unseemly and counterproductive for President Biden and his aides to have publicly sought to deter her from doing so,” McConnell said on the Senate floor, moments after Pelosi landed in Taipai.
Biden said last month that military officials thought Pelosi’s trip to Taiwan at a time of escalating tensions between the United States and China was “not a good idea right now.”
McConnell, however, argued Tuesday that there’s precedent for senior congressional officials visiting Taiwan. Then-Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) visited the island territory in 1997.
“There is significant precedent for high-ranking U.S. officials visiting Taiwan, including a past speaker of the House. Beijing claims such a visit is now unacceptable. They claim that things have changed,” McConnell said.
“Well, it’s certainly true. China has stepped up its aggressive actions. They’re trying to change the status quo through force,” he said.
China warned last week that Pelosi’s visit would have “consequences” as its defense ministry warned of “strong measures.”
McConnell said he hoped Pelosi would return to Washington with more motivation to work with Republicans to increase military spending to balance the growing Chinese military threat in the Pacific.
“I welcome the Speaker’s display for Democracy but I hope she returns from Asia more mindful of the military dimensions of the Chinese threat and more committed to working with Republicans to address the changing balance of military power out in the region,” he said.
McConnell told reporters last week that Pelosi would hand China a public relations victory if she cancelled her trip to Taiwan because of Beijing’s opposition.