US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi became the highest-ranking American politician to visit Taiwan in 25 years, prompting China to announce missile tests and military drills encircling the island.
Pelosi on Tuesday night greeted Taiwanese officials including Foreign Minister Joseph Wu on the tarmac, where she posed for photos. Her congressional delegation plans to meet President Tsai Ing-wen on Wednesday morning and for lunch, the Taiwan leader’s office said in a statement.
Pelosi said in a statement that her visit “in no way contradicts longstanding United States policy” and that America “continues to oppose unilateral efforts to change the status quo.”
“Our congressional delegation’s visit to Taiwan honors America’s unwavering commitment to supporting Taiwan’s vibrant democracy,” Pelosi said.
China in response condemned the visit and announced it would conduct missile tests starting on Tuesday night. Beijing also announced military drills in different areas surrounding the main island of Taiwan from August 4 to August 7.
“China will take all necessary measures to resolutely defend national sovereignty and territorial integrity, and all consequences must be born by the US and the Taiwan independence forces,” the Foreign Ministry in Beijing said in a statement after Pelosi landed.
China, which regards Taiwan as part of its territory, had vowed an unspecified military response ahead of Pelosi’s visit that risks sparking a crisis between the world’s biggest economies. President Xi Jinping told President Joe Biden last week he would “resolutely safeguard China’s national sovereignty and territorial integrity” and that “whoever plays with fire will get burned.”
“We are going to make sure that she has a safe and secure visit,” John Kirby, a spokesman for the White House National Security Council, said on CNN. “We will not be intimidated or deterred from all of our other security commitments in the region because of the Chinese rhetoric or even some of their actions.”
Traders braced for bad news ahead of the visit, with stocks sliding and haven assets such as the yen and Treasuries climbing. While there are few signs China is planning a full-scale invasion of Taiwan, Beijing has responded to past visits by foreign officials with large sorties into Taiwan’s air defense identification zone or across the median line that divides the strait.
Taiwan faced cyberattacks ahead of Pelosi’s arrival, with the presidential office saying it suffered a 20-minute barrage in the early evening hours that was 200 times worse than usual. The website of the Foreign Ministry also appeared to face periodic disruptions.
Taiwan’s Defense Ministry said in a statement Tuesday that the island’s military was prepared to send “appropriate armed forces according to the threat,” adding that it was “determined, confident and capable of ensuring national security.”
Pelosi is the highest-ranking American politician to visit Taiwan since then-House Speaker Newt Gingrich did so in 1997. That came shortly after the last major crisis in the Taiwan Strait, when China lobbed missiles into the sea near ports and then-President Bill Clinton sent two aircraft carrier battle groups to the area.
Pelosi will visit Taiwan’s parliament Wednesday morning, have lunch with President Tsai Ing-wen and also meet with democracy activists, according to local media reports. The previously unannounced stop in Taiwan comes after Pelosi led a congressional delegation to Singapore and Malaysia. They will head next to South Korea and Japan — two staunch US allies.
While the White House has sought to dial back rising tensions with China, emphasizing that Congress is an independent branch of government, Beijing has rejected that argument. On Tuesday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying slammed the “provocative” visit and said any countermeasures from Beijing would be “justified.” Still, she left the door open for a possible in-person summit between Biden and Xi later this year.
Taiwan remains the most sensitive issue between the US and China, with the potential to one day spark a military conflict. Biden said in May that Washington would intervene to defend Taiwan in any attack from China, although the White House later clarified he meant the US would provide weapons, in accordance with existing agreements.
Chinese media outlets including the Communist Party’s Global Times have suggested the People’s Liberation Army would respond aggressively to a Pelosi trip.
PLA will conduct important military exercises and training activities including live-fire drills in six regions surrounding the Taiwan island from Thursday to Sunday pic.twitter.com/k9q1WEDsyF
— Global Times (@globaltimesnews) August 2, 2022
Under an agreement reached in 1978 to normalize relations between China and the US, Washington agreed to recognize only Beijing as the seat of China’s government, while acknowledging — but not endorsing — the Chinese position that there is but one China and Taiwan is part of China.
The US has insisted that any unification between the island and mainland must be peaceful, and supplied Taiwan with advanced weaponry while remaining deliberately ambiguous about whether US forces would help defend against a Chinese attack.
Visits by lower level US lawmakers have also prompted military responses by China. Last November, Chinese warplanes flew around the east side of the island after a visit by a US congressional delegation.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)