U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi lands in Taiwan, China warns of countermeasures

U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has arrived in Taiwan despite threats from Beijing of serious consequences

August 02, 2022 08:55 pm | Updated August 03, 2022 11:43 am IST - Beijing

In this photo released by the Taiwan Ministry of Foreign Affairs, U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi arrives in Taipei, Taiwan, on August 2, 2022.

In this photo released by the Taiwan Ministry of Foreign Affairs, U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi arrives in Taipei, Taiwan, on August 2, 2022. | Photo Credit: AP

United States House Speaker and veteran Democratic politician Nancy Pelosi arrived in Taipei on Tuesday evening, marking the most high-level political engagement from the U.S. to Taiwan in 25 years.

China condemned the visit as “a major political provocation” and said it would launch “targeted military operations” as countermeasures, even as Beijing on Tuesday scrambled Su-35 fighters across the median of the Taiwan Strait in a show of force, placed restrictions on several Taiwanese exporters, and announced live-fire drills to be held in six regions surrounding the island of Taiwan from Thursday to Sunday.

Read: Taiwan | The next flashpoint in the U.S.-China contest

China’s Defence Ministry said it is “on high alert” while the PLA Eastern Theatre Command announced it will hold joint sea and air exercises in the sea and airspaces of northern, southwestern and southeastern Taiwan and also carry out missile tests.

China’s Foreign Ministry in a statement released shortly after Ms. Pelosi’s U.S. Air Force-operated Boeing C-40C plane touched down in Taipei, said “her visit to and activities in Taiwan, in whatever form and for whatever reason, is a major political provocation to upgrade U.S. official exchanges with Taiwan”.

Ms. Pelosi, on arrival, said her “delegation’s visit to Taiwan honours America’s unwavering commitment to supporting Taiwan’s vibrant democracy”. “Our discussions with [the] Taiwan leadership reaffirm our support for our partner & promote our shared interests, including advancing a free and open Indo-Pacific region,” she said.  

Underlining the importance on the visit placed by Taiwan, which has seen the number of countries that maintain formal relations dwindle to only around a dozen, Foreign Minister Joseph Wu welcomed Ms. Pelosi at the airport. Talks with President Tsai Ing-wen are set for Wednesday.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying, earlier on Tuesday, accused the U.S. of “hollowing out” its commitment to a “One China Policy”. “The U.S. and Taiwan have made provocations together first, whereas China has been compelled to act in self-defence,” she said. “Any countermeasure to be taken by China would be a justified and necessary response to the U.S. oblivion to China’s repeated démarches and the U.S.’s unscrupulous behaviour”.

Chinese analysts expected a series of measures to be announced in coming days and weeks, from military drills to economic actions, as well as a period of increasingly fraught relations between the world’s two biggest powers.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken sought to distance the White House from the visit, underlining, as President Biden had also conveyed to his counterpart Xi Jinping in a phone call on July 28, that “Congress is an independent, coequal branch of government” and “the decision is entirely the speaker’s”.  He said if “China tries to create some kind of crisis or otherwise escalate tensions, that would be entirely on Beijing” and there was “precedent”. The last visit by a House Speaker was, however, as far back as in 1997, although members of Congress have since visited.

China rejected that argument, saying “when the House Speaker, being the third-highest ranking figure in the U.S. government, flies on U.S. military aircraft and makes a provocative visit to the Taiwan region, it is by no means an unofficial action”.

While China has blamed the U.S. of crossing “red lines”, the visit has been welcomed in Taiwan, which has accused Beijing of trying to change the current status quo through a combination of military pressure and moves to isolate Taiwan internationally.

Economic measures may now follow. China, which is Taiwan’s biggest trading partner, on Monday barred shipments from 100 Taiwanese exporters of products including seafood and honey.

For now, however, the rare high-level visit is being welcomed in the island of 23 million people.

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