Talk of an official visit to Taiwan by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is drawing attention and mounting push-back from China.
Beijing warned it will take "strong measures" to respond if the visit occurs, possibly including military action.
A trip to Taiwan would be the first by a sitting House Speaker in 25 years when then-Speaker Newt Gingrich visited the island. As second-in-line for the presidency, Pelosi's presence would send a strong signal of support for Taiwan's independence.
"I think that it's important for us to show support for Taiwan. I also think that we have...none of us has ever said we're for independence when it comes to Taiwan. That's up to Taiwan to decide," Pelosi told reporters during her weekly press briefing.
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While the Speaker has not confirmed a visit, initial reports suggested an August timetable. President Biden, himself, recently indicated Pelosi should wait. "I think that the military thinks that it's not a good idea right now. But I don't know what the status of it is," Biden told reporters last week.
Over the weekend Joint Chiefs Chairman Mark Milley warned that China's military has become significantly more aggressive and dangerous over the past five years.
But experts say it's unlikely the Pentagon would ask the Speaker to cancel a trip.
"We're going to have to absorb some kind of negative reaction from the Chinese, probably worse than previous periods. But we can't imagine that it's going to be, you know, war," said Walter Lohman, director of the Heritage Foundation Asian Studies Center.
Some concerned over the timing of the visit cite August as being the anniversary of the founding of the People's Liberation Army (PLA). There's also an important decision in November when the ruling Communist Party is expected to grant President Xi Jinping an unprecedented third term.
Lohman points out there will never be a time frame when the CCP supports an official U.S. visit to Taiwan, and President Xi has nothing to prove.
"He's in a very strong position within the party and he's about to get his third term and then put a down payment on a fourth term. He is consolidating power within the CCP. I don't see him as weak at all, I don't see him having to demonstrate anything," Lohman told CBN News.
The Biden administration, on the other hand, can't afford to show weakness, and Lohman says that would be the message if Pelosi cancels her trip.
"First of all, it puts a lie to what we tell the Chinese all the time that is that we have divided government, in the United States, we have co-equal branches of government and the President of the United States can't make the Speaker of the House go or not go, it's up to her. The second message it sends is really one that will be heard loud and clear in the region. It's that there's a new sheriff in town. Chinese don't want us to go to Taiwan. They tell us don't go or we'll, unspecified cause you trouble, and the president of the United States convinces the Speaker not to go," Lohman explained.
President Biden has a phone call scheduled with President Xi in the coming weeks, and there's speculation that he's balking on Pelosi's trip out of concern the call will be canceled. Lohman says it's much more important in the long run that China understands it can't determine the parameters of U.S. foreign policy.