The speaker of the US House of Representatives has held talks with officials in Singapore at the start of a tour of Asia, as questions swirled over a possible stop in Taiwan that has fuelled tension with China.
Nancy Pelosi met Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, President Halimah Yacob and other cabinet members, Singapore’s Foreign Ministry said.
Mr Lee welcomed a US commitment to strong engagement with the region, and the two sides discussed ways to deepen economic engagement through initiatives such as the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework, the ministry said in a statement.
Mr Lee and Ms Pelosi also discussed the war in Ukraine, tensions surrounding Taiwan and mainland China, and climate change, it said.
The premier “highlighted the importance of stable US-China relations for regional peace and security”, it added, in an apparent allusion to reports that Ms Pelosi may visit Taiwan.
In a statement over the weekend, she said she will visit Singapore, Malaysia, South Korea and Japan to discuss trade, Covid-19, climate change, security and “democratic governance”.
She did not confirm reports that she might visit Taiwan, which is claimed by Beijing as its own territory. Chinese President Xi Jinping warned against meddling in Beijing’s dealings with the island in a phone call last week with US President Joe Biden.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian reiterated the earlier warnings on Monday, saying “there will be serious consequences if she insists on making the visit”.
He did not spell out any specific consequences, but said: “We are fully prepared for any eventuality.
“The People’s Liberation Army will never sit by idly. China will take strong and resolute measures to safeguard its sovereignty and territorial integrity.”
Ms Pelosi is scheduled to be in Malaysia on Tuesday. A parliament official said she will call on Malaysian lower house speaker Azhar Azizan Harun.
On Thursday, Ms Pelosi is to meet South Korean National Assembly speaker Kim Jin Pyo in Seoul for talks on security in the Indo-Pacific region, economic co-operation and the climate crisis, Mr Kim’s office said in a statement.
Ms Pelosi’s schedule for Wednesday remains unclear and there are no details on when she will head to Japan.
Beijing sees official American contact with Taiwan as encouragement to make the island’s decades-old de facto independence permanent, a step US leaders say they do not support.
Ms Pelosi, head of one of three branches of the US government, would be the highest-ranking elected American official to visit Taiwan since then-speaker Newt Gingrich in 1997.
The Biden administration has tried to assure Beijing there was no reason to “come to blows” and that if such a visit occurred, it would signal no change in US policy.