U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) addresses reporters during a news conference at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, U.S., July 29, 2022. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

Tensions between the US and China have escalated over speculation that US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi may visit Taiwan. Apparently as a warning to Washington, China’s military held live ammunition drills near Taiwan on Saturday.

As the authorities announced, parts of the waters off Fujian province were blocked. The area is north of the Taiwan Strait, which separates mainland China and the island republic of Taiwan.

In the announcement of the trip, which begins Sunday, Pelosi left open whether she would make a stopover in Taiwan. Only stations in Singapore, Malaysia, South Korea and Japan were mentioned.

The media reports, citing those around her that she was also considering a visit to Taiwan, went uncommented. China had warned vigorously about this and threatened consequences. The 82-year-old top politician of the Democrats is number three in the USA after the President and his Vice President.

“Today, our congressional delegation travels to the Indo-Pacific region to reaffirm America’s strong and unwavering commitment to our allies and friends in the region,” Pelosi said.

The politician is accompanied by members of Congress. The focus is on “mutual security, economic partnership and democratic governance in the Indo-Pacific region,” it said.

China’s military tried to increase the pressure. The Air Force flew patrols near Taiwan. Spokesman Shen Jinke underscored that the air force “has the firm will, full confidence and sufficient capability to defend China’s national sovereignty and territorial integrity,” as quoted by the party’s People’s Daily newspaper.

Last week, the United States deployed the aircraft carrier USS Donald Reagan to the South China Sea. The US military spoke of a long-planned trip and “routine patrol”.

The communist leadership regards free Taiwan as part of the People’s Republic and wants to isolate it internationally. On the other hand, the island republic of 23 million people has long considered itself independent.

Since the Russian invasion of Ukraine, fears of a conquest by China have been growing. The United States has committed itself to Taiwan’s ability to defend itself – which has so far primarily meant arms deliveries.

China’s leadership perceives visits by foreign politicians to Taiwan as a provocation. Beijing has threatened serious consequences if Democrat Pelosi visits Taiwan.

In a phone call with US President Joe Biden on Thursday, head of state and party leader Xi Jinping warned his counterpart: “Those who play with fire will perish.” I don’t think the military thinks it’s a good idea at the moment.”