Speaker of the United States House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi arrived in Taiwan on Tuesday despite repeated warnings not to come from mainland China, which claims island democracy as its own territory.
Pelosi and members of a congressional delegation landed at Taipei Songshan Airport in the Taiwanese capital just after 10:40 p.m. local time as part of his Asia tour. She traveled to Singapore on Monday and to Malaysia on Tuesday. Her office had previously announced that she would also be traveling to South Korea and Japan, but had not mentioned a stopover in Taiwan until her plane landed on Tuesday evening.
“Our congressional delegation’s visit to Taiwan honors the United States’ unwavering commitment to supporting Taiwan’s vibrant democracy,” Pelosi and the delegation said in a joint statement Tuesday. “Our visit is part of our broader Indo-Pacific trip – including Singapore, Malaysia, South Korea and Japan – focused on mutual security, economic partnership and democratic governance. Our discussions with Taiwan’s leaders will focus on reaffirming our support for our partner and advancing our common interests, including promoting a free and open Indo-Pacific region. million people in Taiwan is more important than ever today, as the world faces a choice between autocracy and democracy.
“Our visit is one of many congressional delegations to Taiwan – and it in no way contradicts long-standing U.S. policy, guided by the Taiwan Relations Act of 1979, U.S.-China Joint Communiques, and the six assurances,” they added. “The United States continues to oppose unilateral efforts to change the status quo.”
Beijing views any official contact with Taiwan as an acknowledgment of its democratically elected government, which the mainland’s ruling Communist Party says has no right to conduct foreign relations.
Pelosi is the most senior US official to visit Taiwan in a quarter century. Her arrival follows fiery reactions from Chinese officials amid reports that she was planning such a trip.
Zhao Lijian, spokesman for China’s Foreign Ministry, said at a press briefing on Monday that Beijing would “take firm and strong action” if Pelosi were to travel to Taiwan.
“We want to make it clear to the US side once again that the Chinese side is fully prepared for any eventuality and the Chinese People’s Liberation Army will never stand idly by, and we will react resolutely and take countermeasures. vigorously defending China’s position of sovereignty and territorial integrity,” Zhao said. “We have repeatedly expressed our grave concern and solemn position that we firmly oppose the attempted visit by President Pelosi in the Taiwan area, and will take firm and strong measures to safeguard national sovereignty and territorial integrity.”
“The one-China principle is what underpins peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait,” he added. “It is the United States that has consistently distorted and hollowed out the one-China policy and made irresponsible remarks on the Taiwan issue, creating tension across the strait. The US side has recently begun to stress the need for safeguard the sovereignty and territorial integrity of We hope the US side will act first as it speaks out on the Taiwan issue and not play a double game.”
Under the so-called “one China principle”, Beijing regards Taiwan as its territory, a renegade province to be reunified – by force if necessary – with the mainland. The United States has a “one China policy” recognizing that the people of mainland China and Taiwan are part of a “one China”, that Beijing is the only legal government of China and does not support a independent Taiwan, but considers the issue to be “pending”. Washington also supports the self-governing island militarily and maintains extensive commercial and unofficial ties.
Taiwan separated from mainland China in 1949, following a civil war between Nationalist Party and Communist Party forces. As the Communists took control of the mainland, the Nationalists retreated to the island of Taiwan where they established their new capital.
The two parties agree that they form a single country but do not agree on the choice of the national leader. Although they have no formal relationship, the island’s economy remains dependent on trade with the mainland.
The United States transferred diplomatic recognition from Taipei to Beijing in 1979. The Taiwan Relations Act, which came into force the same year, obliges Washington to provide Taiwan with the means to defend itself.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying appeared to tone down the rhetoric on Tuesday ahead of the official announcement of Pelosi’s arrival, telling reporters that Beijing and Washington “have maintained close communication.”
“China has repeatedly and unequivocally expressed to the US side its firm opposition to President Pelosi’s potential visit to Taiwan,” Hua said. “And we hope that two US officials will be very clear about the importance and the sensitivity of this issue and how dangerous this issue is.”
While China’s Foreign Ministry has yet to summon US Ambassador to China Nicholas Burns to protest, Hua noted, “I think when the time comes, we will be in contact with the US Ambassador.”
Unlike Zhao, she would not comment on any military response to Pelosi’s visit and referred the matter to a military spokesperson for the ruling People’s Liberation Army.
White House spokesman John Kirby said at a press briefing on Monday that Beijing was apparently setting the stage to carry out “military provocations” in response to a potential visit by Pelosi to Taiwan.
“China appears to be positioning itself to potentially take further action in the coming days and perhaps longer term,” Kirby said.
Kirby told reporters that the “potential steps” China could take in response “could include military provocations, such as firing missiles into the Taiwan Strait or around Taiwan, operations that violate historical norms such as “large-scale air entry into Taiwan’s air defense identification zone” or “air or naval activities that cross the median line; military exercises that could be highly publicized”. He said the last time that Beijing fired missiles into the Taiwan Strait was in 1996.
There could also be actions taken “in the diplomatic and economic space,” Kirby said, “such as Beijing’s public assertions last month that the Taiwan Strait is not an international waterway.”
When asked what planning “was done in advance to ensure there would be no dangerous fallout if she did travel to Taiwan,” Kirby told reporters he could “ensure that Pelosi would be able to “travel safely.”
“The speaker makes her own decisions,” he added. “And what we did was provide her with the context, the analysis, the facts, the information, so she could make the best possible decision for every stop, for every trip abroad.”
Kirby called the escalating tensions fueled by China, which the United States “did not threaten.” He said a potential visit by Pelosi would set a precedent and “not change the status quo” regarding China and Taiwan.
In 1997, then-House Speaker Newt Gingrich visited Taiwan after meeting with then-Chinese President Jiang Zemin in Beijing.
But Hua told reporters Tuesday there would be no “apology” for a visit from Pelosi.
“The wrong actions of individual American politicians in the past should not set a precedent, let alone an excuse, for the United States to make mistakes on the Taiwan question,” she said.