China said Tuesday that the United States will “pay the price” if House Speaker Nancy Pelosi visits Taiwan during her Asia trip.
Pelosi was in Malaysia on Tuesday, the second stop in a tour that has sparked rage in Beijing after reports of a potential Taipei visit.
China considers Taiwan its territory and has indicated through repeated warnings that it would view a Pelosi visit as a major provocation.
“The US side will bear the responsibility and pay the price for undermining China’s sovereign security interests,” foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said at a regular press briefing in Beijing.
American officials often make discreet visits to Taiwan to show support, but Pelosi would be a higher-profile visitor than any in recent history.
Reports of her plans have sent US-China tensions soaring.
In a call with US President Joe Biden last week, Chinese President Xi Jinping warned the United States against “playing with fire” on Taiwan.
And China’s ambassador to the United Nations, Zhang Hun, said Monday that such a visit would be “very much dangerous, very much provocative”.
While the Biden administration is understood to be opposed to a Taiwan stop, White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said Pelosi was entitled to go where she pleased.
“The speaker has the right to visit Taiwan,” he told reporters on Monday.
“There is no reason for Beijing to turn a potential visit consistent with longstanding US policies into some sort of crisis.”
Kirby cited intelligence that China was preparing possible military provocations.
He said Pelosi was travelling on a military aircraft and that while Washington did not fear a direct attack, it “raises the stakes of a miscalculation”.
Kirby reiterated, however, that US policy was unchanged toward Taiwan.
This means support for its self-ruling government, while diplomatically recognising Beijing over Taipei and opposing a formal independence declaration by Taiwan or a forceful takeover by China.
Taipei, meanwhile, has remained silent on the prospect of a Pelosi visit.
Taiwan’s 23 million people have long lived with the possibility of an invasion, but the threat has intensified under Xi.