US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi arrived in Singapore on Monday, beginning her Asian tour amid questions over a possible stop in Taiwan that has fuelled tension with Beijing.
Ms Pelosi and her delegation were understood to have landed in the city-state before dawn.
Ms Pelosi will meet Singapore President Halimah Yacob and Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, and a number of Cabinet ministers, said a spokesperson for Singapore’s foreign ministry.
She is also expected to attend a cocktail reception with the American Chamber of Commerce in Singapore.
Chinese President Xi Jinping has warned the US over ‘meddling’ in Taiwan
In a statement, Ms Pelosi said she will also visit Malaysia, South Korea and Japan to discuss trade, the Covid-19 pandemic, climate change, security and “democratic governance”.
She did not confirm reports that she might visit Taiwan, which is claimed by Beijing as its own territory. Chinese President Xi Jinping warned against meddling in Beijing’s dealings with the island in a phone call last week with his American counterpart, President Joe Biden.
Beijing sees official American contact with Taiwan as encouragement to make its decades-old de facto independence permanent, a step US leaders say they don’t support.
Ms Pelosi would be the highest-ranking elected American official to visit Taiwan since then-Speaker Newt Gingrich in 1997.
The Biden administration has tried to assure Beijing there was no reason to “come to blows” and that if such a visit occurred, it would signal no change in US policy.
Taiwan and China split in 1949 after the communists won a civil war on the mainland.
Both sides say they are one country but disagree over which government is entitled to national leadership. They have no official relations but are linked by billions of dollars of trade and investment.
The United States switched diplomatic recognition from Taipei to Beijing in 1979, but maintains informal relations with the island. Washington is obligated by federal law to see that Taiwan has the means to defend itself.
Washington’s “One China policy” says it takes no position on the status of the two sides but wants their dispute resolved peacefully.
Beijing promotes an alternative “One China principle” that says they are one country and the Communist Party is its leader.
Ms Pelosi has long challenged China on human rights and wanted to visit Taiwan earlier this year.