Nancy Pelosi, second in office, is the most prominent American lawmaker to visit Taiwan in 25 years. Beijing has made it clear it views his presence as a major provocation, putting the region on edge
Defying threats from China, Speaker of the United States House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi arrived in Taiwan on Tuesday evening, becoming the highest ranking official to visit the island claimed by China in 25 years.
Minutes after landing in Taiwan, Speaker of the United States House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi tweeted, “Our delegation’s visit to Taiwan honors America’s unwavering commitment to supporting Taiwan’s vibrant democracy. .
“Our discussions with the leaders of Taiwan reaffirm our support for our partner and promote our common interests, including the promotion of a free and open Indo-Pacific region.”
America’s solidarity with Taiwan’s 23 million people is more important now than ever, as the world faces a choice between autocracy and democracy, Pelosi added.
Our delegation’s visit to Taiwan honors America’s unwavering commitment to supporting Taiwan’s vibrant democracy.
Our discussions with the leaders of Taiwan reaffirm our support for our partner and promote our common interests, including the promotion of a free and open Indo-Pacific region.
— Nancy Pelosi (@SpeakerPelosi) August 2, 2022
“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, the U.S.-China Joint Communiques, and the Six Assurances “, she wrote on Twitter.
“The United States continues to oppose unilateral efforts to change the status quo,” she said.
Pelosi, second in office, is the most high-profile US lawmaker to visit Taiwan in 25 years and Beijing has made it clear it views his presence as a major provocation, putting the region on edge.
Live television footage showed the 82-year-old lawmaker, who flew aboard a US military plane at Taipei Songshan Airport, was greeted upon arrival by Foreign Minister Joseph Wu.
China on Tuesday called U.S. actions in Taiwan “extremely dangerous.”
“The United States…constantly distorts, obscures and crowds out the ‘One China’ principle,” Beijing’s foreign ministry said in a statement after Pelosi’s plane landed in Taiwan. “These moves, like playing with fire, are extremely dangerous. Those who play with fire will perish.”
The Chinese military also pledged on Tuesday to launch “targeted military actions” in response to the visit.
“The Chinese People’s Liberation Army is on high alert and will launch a series of targeted military operations to counter this, resolutely uphold national sovereignty and territorial integrity, and resolutely thwart external interference and separatist attempts. of ‘Taiwan independence,'” PLA spokesman Wu Qian said. in a statement condemning the visit.
Pelosi is currently on tour in Asia and although neither she nor her office has confirmed the visit to Taipei, several US and Taiwanese media outlets have reported that it is on the cards – sparking days of ire from Beijing.
Moments before its arrival, Chinese state media reported that advanced Su-35 fighter jets were crossing the Taiwan Strait. The brief report did not contain any details about the exact time or location of the crossing.
“The lack of faith by the United States on the Taiwan issue is despicable,” Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said in comments posted on his ministry’s website earlier Tuesday that did not specifically mention Pelosi.
“No need for crisis”
China considers democratic and self-governing Taiwan its territory and has vowed to take the island one day, by force if necessary.
It attempts to keep Taiwan isolated on the world stage and opposes countries having official trade with Taipei.
During a call with US President Joe Biden last week, Chinese President Xi Jinping warned the United States against “playing with fire” in Taiwan.
While the Biden administration is reportedly opposed to a shutdown in Taiwan, White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said Pelosi has the right to go where she wants.
“There is no reason for Beijing to turn a potential visit in line with long-standing US policies into some kind of crisis,” he told reporters.
The last Speaker of the House to visit Taiwan was Newt Gingrich in 1997.
Kirby cited intelligence that China was planning possible military provocations. He said that while Washington did not fear a direct attack on Pelosi’s plane, it “raises the stakes of a miscalculation.”
Kirby, however, reiterated that US policy was unchanged toward Taiwan.
This means supporting its self-government, while diplomatically recognizing Beijing rather than Taipei and opposing a formal declaration of independence by Taiwan or a forced takeover by China.
Meanwhile, Moscow said it was “absolutely in solidarity with China”, calling the prospect of a visit by Pelosi “pure provocation”.
China has refused to condemn Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and has been accused of providing diplomatic cover for the Kremlin by blasting Western sanctions and arms sales to Kyiv.
All eyes on Taiwan
Pelosi left Kuala Lumpur on Tuesday after meeting Malaysian Prime Minister Ismail Sabri and Foreign Minister Saifuddin Abdullah.
So many people were following the US military plane carrying her on FlightRadar that the website said some users experienced outages.
The plane took a circuitous route that carefully avoided the South China Sea – which Beijing claims – before heading for the east coast of the Philippines.
Press access around Pelosi has been strictly restricted so far and limited to a handful or short statements confirming meetings with officials.
His itinerary includes stops in South Korea and Japan, but the prospect of a trip to Taiwan had dominated the spotlight.
The Taipei government remained silent on his visit even though local media published reports showing his attendance was virtually guaranteed.
The capital’s famous Taipei 101 skyscraper was lit up with the words “Speaker Pelosi…Thank you” on Tuesday night before his plane arrived.
“Seek to punish Taiwan”
Taiwan’s 23 million people have long lived with the possibility of invasion, but that threat has intensified under Xi, China’s most assertive leader in a generation.
The island’s military said on Tuesday it was “committed” to defending it against heightened threats from China over Pelosi’s potential visit.
“The likelihood of war or a serious incident is low,” tweeted Bonnie Glaser, Asia program director at the US think tank German Marshall Fund.
“But the likelihood that … (China) will take a series of military, economic and diplomatic actions to show its strength and determination is not insignificant,” she added.
“He will likely seek to punish Taiwan in multiple ways.”
The Taipei Council of Agriculture said on Tuesday that China had suspended the import of certain Taiwanese products, including certain fish products, tea and honey. The council said China cited regulatory violations.
Pelosi’s potential visit was preceded by a flurry of military activity across the region, showing just how volatile the Taiwan issue is. Last week, Taiwan and China held live fire drills.
With contributions from agencies
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