WASHINGTON – Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi landed in Taiwan on Tuesday, a much-anticipated visit that came amid increasingly harsh warnings about Chinese retaliation and escalating tensions between Washington and Beijing.
Pelosi, wearing a face mask, stepped off the plane around 10:50 p.m. local time and posed for photos with a contingent of Taiwanese officials who greeted her on the tarmac.
In a statement, the California Democrat said her visit was the first official trip to Taiwan by a US House Speaker in 25 years.
“Our congressional delegation’s visit to Taiwan honors the United States’ unwavering commitment to supporting Taiwan’s vibrant democracy,” Pelosi said in the statement. democracy.”
China’s Foreign Ministry issued a statement minutes after she landed condemning her visit as “a grave violation” of the one-China principle that Taiwan is part of China.
The statement accused the United States of emboldening “separatist forces” in Taiwan and warned that Pelosi’s visit “has a severe impact on the political foundation of China-US relations and seriously infringes on the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the United States.” China”.
“These moves, like playing with fire, are extremely dangerous,” he said.
Pelosi, who has a long history of entanglements with Beijing for his human rights record, he is the highest-ranking US official to visit the self-governing island in 25 years.
Pelosi’s office did not confirm the trip in advance, citing security protocols, but her travel plans were leaked amid rampant speculation about the fallout from such a visit. Even after he landed, his office did not release an official itinerary for his stay in Taiwan. But Taiwan’s three largest national newspapers, citing unnamed sources, said he would spend the night there.
Taiwan’s tallest building, Taipei 101, was lit up with welcoming messages for the speaker. “Welcome to TW,” read one message. “Thank you,” said another.
Last month, President Joe Biden told reporters that “the military thinks it’s not a good idea right now” for Pelosi to make the trip. Some in Washington have expressed concern that China may respond by increasing aggression toward Taiwan.
“The response will almost certainly include a military component,” M. Taylor Fravel, director of the Security Studies Program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, wrote in a thread on Twitter. He said China would likely mount a “show of force,” possibly including live-fire exercises and an increased military presence inside the Taiwan Strait, along with economic and diplomatic actions against the island.
Reuters, citing an unnamed source, reported on Tuesday that several Chinese warplanes flew near the median line dividing the Taiwan Strait on Tuesday morning and that several Chinese warships have sailed near the line since Monday. .
China sees Taiwan as part of its territory, while Taiwan sees itself as a sovereign country. The United States has long adopted a shady middle ground that seeks to support Taiwan without infuriating Beijing.
Pelosi, White House: Visit does not change US policy on Taiwan
Pelosi noted that her visit was one of several congressional delegations to Taiwan, saying it “in no way contradicts longstanding US policy.”
White House officials also made that point, stressing that Pelosi’s trip does not change the US position on Taiwan and saying there is no reason the visit should cause an escalation.
“Nothing about this potential visit … would change the status quo, and the world should reject any (Chinese) effort to use it to do so,” said John Kirby, the National Security Council coordinator for strategic communications at the White House. “We will not take the bait or engage in saber rattling.”
Kirby noted that other members of Congress have visited Taiwan before, including earlier this year. Former Speaker Newt Gingrich, a Republican from Georgia, was the last House leader to visit in 1997.
“We have repeatedly said that we oppose any unilateral change to the status quo by either side, we have said that we do not support Taiwan independence, and we have said that we hope cross-Strait differences will be resolved by peaceful means,” Kirby said. he said.
Despite the administration’s insistence that the visit does not mark a change in US policy, China has threatened consequences for Pelosi’s visit.
In Tuesday’s statement, China’s foreign ministry said Beijing “will definitely take all necessary measures to resolutely safeguard its sovereignty and territorial integrity in response to the US president’s visit.” Any consequences of those steps “must be borne by the US side and the ‘Taiwan independence’ separatist forces,” the statement read.
Chinese President Xi Jinping delivered a stark warning directly to Biden on the issue during a lengthy July 28 phone call between the two leaders.
“Those who play with fire will perish by it,” the Chinese leader said, according to the official account of the conversation from Beijing. “The United States is expected to be clear-eyed on this. The United States should honor the one-China principle,” the Chinese government statement said.
US officials have called such comments escalatory.
“Rhetoric of that sort just heightens tensions in a completely unnecessary way,” Kirby said last week.
Pelosi’s Asian Journey
Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan comes as part of a congressional delegation to Singapore, Malaysia, South Korea and Japan.
Democratic Representatives Gregory Meeks of New York, Mark Takano of California, Suzan DelBene of Washington, Raja Krishnamoorthi of Illinois and Andy Kim of New Jersey traveled with Pelosi. It was not immediately clear if those lawmakers also went to Taiwan.
The California Democrat also invited several Republican members of Congress to travel to Taiwan with her, according to a source familiar with the discussions and one of the GOP lawmakers, but none of the Republican members attended.
Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas, was among those invited to the trip but was unable to attend because of a previous commitment, said Leslie Shedd, spokesman for the ranking member of the House Foreign Affairs committee.
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, said before the trip that if Pelosi did not attend, it would be a victory for China. .
Contributors: Deirdre Shesgreen, Francesca Chambers, Katie Wadington
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Nancy Pelosi visits Taiwan despite China warnings and Biden concerns