Amid tensions between Beijing and Washington over the status of Taiwan, US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has begun her Asian tour. China responded in its own way: starting Tuesday, the military will hold an exercise in the South China Sea.

Pelosi arrived in Singapore on Monday to start her trip to Asia. However, she did not comment on whether she would like to visit Taiwan – which Beijing would see as a provocation. The Speaker of the House of Representatives is the third highest-ranking representative in the United States.

The main focus of their trip will be “mutual security, economic cooperation and democratic governance,” Pelosi’s office said before departure to anonymous sources that Pelosi still plans to visit Taiwan, trips by US officials to the island nation are usually kept secret until they land.

A spokesman for China’s foreign ministry on Monday threatened “firm and strong countermeasures” should Pelosi travel to Taiwan.

China then announced on Monday afternoon that it would hold another four-day military exercise in the South China Sea from Tuesday. Four Chinese fighter jets also flew over the island.

Almost at the same time, the military posted a martial video on the Chinese messenger “WeChat” showing the individual branches of the army in action.

China regards Taiwan as a breakaway province that is to be reunited with the mainland – if necessary using military force. Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine has raised fears that Beijing may be heading for a similar move toward Taiwan.

Read here: Analysis by China Understanders – A war in Taiwan would have devastating consequences for Germany

The US applies a policy of “strategic ambiguity” towards Taiwan – without specifying whether the US would intervene militarily in the event of a Chinese invasion. While Washington does not officially recognize Taiwan as an independent state, it supports the country’s government.

Discreet solidarity visits by US officials to Taiwan are not uncommon. Pelosi would be the highest-ranking US official to visit the island in years. In a phone call to US President Joe Biden on Thursday, China’s head of state Xi Jinping warned against “playing with fire”. The Foreign Ministry in Beijing on Monday reiterated that Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan would “seriously endanger” peace and stability in the Taiwan Straits.