US seeks to dampen China fury on Pelosi’s potential Taiwan trip

“SHOOT THEM DOWN”

What China might actually do remains unclear.

A spokesman for the Chinese foreign ministry said “a visit to Taiwan by Speaker Pelosi would challenge China’s red line, and any challenge to our red line will no doubt be met with resolute countermeasures”.

In his comments to Biden, reported by Chinese state media, Xi made an equally heated, but vague statement, saying “those who play with fire will eventually get burned”.

The area where Saturday’s Chinese manoeuvres are set to take place is located on Pingtan island, which is in the Taiwan Straits, but about 120km from the actual Taiwanese coast.

However, a commentator for the state-run Global Times newspaper urged intercepting Pelosi’s plane.

“If US fighter jets escort Pelosi’s plane into Taiwan, it is invasion. The PLA has the right to forcibly dispel Pelosi’s plane and the US fighter jets, including firing warning shots and making tactical movement of obstruction. If ineffective, then shoot them down,” wrote Hu Xijin.

John Kirby, spokesman for Biden’s National Security Council, played down what he called “bellicose rhetoric.”

“We’ve seen no physical, tangible indications of anything untoward with respect to Taiwan,” he said.

Stressing there was no change in the US policy of acknowledging Beijing’s legal sovereignty over Taiwan, Kirby also said “there’s no need” for China to react so harshly.

While Pelosi is a close political ally of fellow Democrat Biden, her diplomatic foray has put the president in a tricky position as he tries man ageingan increasingly high-stakes relationship with China.

Despite the tension, however, Biden and Xi agreed in their call Thursday to set up a first in-person summit at a still to be decided date.

“The president believes it’s really important to keep open lines of communication,” Kirby said.