US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi landed in Taiwan late on Tuesday for a visit amid angry denunciations and heightened threats from Chinese officials, who unveiled plans to hold days of military drills in the seas around the self-governing island by China’s People’s Liberation Army.
In defiance of angry threats from Beijing, Pelosi, the most senior US official to visit Taiwan in 25 years, flew into Songshan airport near the capital Taipei around 10:45 p.m. local time, part of a congressional delegation trip reaffirming the US commitment to Asian allies.
Hundreds of Taiwanese, as well as Tibetans, gathered at her hotel to welcome the 82-year-old lawmaker, long a staunch critic of Beijing, while a small group of people who favor unification with the mainland and opposed the visit told Pelosi to go home.
“Our Congressional delegation’s visit to Taiwan honors America’s unwavering commitment to supporting Taiwan’s vibrant democracy,” she said in a statement.
“Our visit is part of our broader trip to the Indo-Pacific — including Singapore, Malaysia, South Korea and Japan — focused on mutual security, economic partnership and democratic governance,” Pelosi added.
Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs tweeted: “Minister [Joseph]Wu welcomed our faithful #US friends & wished them a superb visit. #Taiwan is not alone!”
Wu tweeted: “Thank you & the congressional delegation for traveling all the way to show your support.”
In Beijing, China’s Foreign Ministry swiftly released an angry statement accusing Pelosi and the US of supporting Taiwan independence. China “has made serious démarche and strong protest” to Washington, it said.
“Since Speaker Pelosi is the incumbent leader of the US Congress, her visit to and activities in Taiwan, in whatever form and for whatever reason, is a major political provocation to upgrade US official exchanges with Taiwan. China absolutely does not accept this, and the Chinese people absolutely reject this,” the ministry statement said.
“China will definitely take all necessary measures to resolutely safeguard its sovereignty and territorial integrity in response to the US Speaker’s visit. All the consequences arising therefrom must be borne by the US side and the ‘Taiwan independence’ separatist forces,” it added.
The United States does not recognize Taiwan diplomatically as part of a One China Policy demanded by Beijing, but retains close unofficial ties with Taipei and is obligated by law to provide it with defense capabilities. Beijing considers the self-ruling, democratic island a breakaway province, to be united with the mainland by force if necessary, and objects strongly to high-level US visits. The last sitting House speaker to visit Taiwan was Newt Gingrich in 1997.
The Communist Party-controlled Global Times tweeted that the PLA will hold “important military drills and training activities, including live-fire drills” in six regions surrounding Taiwan from Thursday to Sunday. Some of the drill zones the newspaper announced appeared to overlap with Taiwan’s 12-nautical-mile territorial waters.
The military launched drills on Tuesday before her arrival in Taipei, with state TV calling the war games “a serious deterrent against the recent escalation of negative moves by the United States on the Taiwan issue and a serious warning to the ‘independence’ forces seeking ‘independence.'”
In Washington, national security council spokesman John Kirby said China’s announced military drills represent overreaction and escalation he had on Monday warned China against taking.
“We’ve been very clear that nothing has changed about our One China policy,” he told reporters at the White House.
“We’ve said that we oppose any unilateral changes to the status quo from either side. We said we do not support Taiwan independence,” Kirby said, describing it as the message delivered in a phone call last week by President Joe Biden to Chinese leader Xi Jinping.
“There’s no reason … for Beijing to turn this visit, which is consistent with longstanding US policy into some sort of crisis or use it as a pretext to increase aggressiveness and military activity in or around the Taiwan Strait now or beyond her travel,” the spokesman said.
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