WASHINGTON – If United States House Speaker Nancy Pelosi goes ahead with her potential trip to Taiwan, which several media outlets have reported that she is planning to, it will not be her first high-profile, risky trip during her long tenure in politics.
The veteran politician was first elected to the House of Representatives in 1987 and represents California’s 12th congressional district, a solidly Democratic constituency.
She was first elected as Speaker in 2007, becoming the first woman to hold the position, which she lost in 2011 when the Republican Party won control of the House.
She was elected Speaker again in 2019, when the Democratic Party gained control of the House, and has remained in the position since.
Mrs Pelosi, 82, has a longstanding reputation as a China critic and has repeatedly slammed the country’s human rights record.
She has been vocal on issues ranging from the 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown to the Chinese government’s treatment of Uighur Muslims, most recently calling for a diplomatic boycott of the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing.
In 1991, while on a trip to Beijing with a congressional delegation, Mrs Pelosi and two of her colleagues slipped away from their official escorts to visit Tiananmen Square.
There, the trio of lawmakers unfurled a black banner with the words “To those who died for democracy in China” written in white ink in Chinese and English, which a Chinese activist had given them during their previous leg in Hong Kong.
The three lawmakers also carried a white cloth rose in protest, before they were confronted by Chinese officials.
In 2015, during the Obama administration, Mrs Pelosi made a rare visit to Lhasa, Tibet, during a senior congressional delegation trip to China. Two years later in 2017, she met the Dalai Lama in his headquarters in India, where he has been living since fleeing from Tibet in 1959 amid a Chinese crackdown there.
In May this year, Mrs Pelosi made an unannounced trip to the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv, becoming the top US leader to meet the country’s president, Mr Volodymyr Zelensky, since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine began.
So far, Mrs Pelosi has not confirmed a Taiwan leg of her ongoing Asia trip due to security concerns but is widely expected to proceed with it. Several media reports said on Tuesday that she is expected to arrive on Tuesday night.
As Speaker, a position that makes her second in the line of succession to the presidency after the vice-president, Mrs Pelosi would be the most senior US official to visit Taiwan in 25 years, since former Republican Speaker Newt Gingrich made a trip there in 1997.