August 8, 2022
Nancy Pelosi arrives in Taiwan as China ramps up military activity

Defying Chinese threats of a military response, Nancy Pelosi landed in Taiwan on Tuesday night on the highest-level visit by a US official in decades.

The visit of the Speaker of the US House of Representatives has become a test of how far Beijing will go to curtail foreign support for Taiwan and China and the US’s crisis-management ability to manage their increasingly strained relations.

Shortly after landing in Taipei, Pelosi issued a statement saying that her visit “honors America’s unwavering commitment to supporting Taiwan’s vibrant democracy . . . as the world faces a choice between autocracy and democracy.” has been.”

The Chinese Foreign Ministry said Pelosi’s visit was a “serious violation of China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity” and would have a “serious impact” on US-China relations.

Pelosi is the most senior US official to visit Taiwan since Newt Gingrich, one of his predecessors as president, did so in 1997. Beijing claims Taiwan as part of its sovereign territory and constantly warns that the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) “will not sit idly by” if Pelosi dares to visit.

Ahead of Pelosi’s touchdown on Tuesday, the PLA staged a string of air and sea maneuvers in the South China Sea and the Taiwan Strait, as well as military exercises in other coastal areas.

The US Air Force plane carrying Pelosi and his delegation did not fly directly to Taipei from its previous stop in Kuala Lumpur, making a wide detour through Borneo and the Philippines.

Maya Nouwens, an expert on the PLA at the International Institute for Strategic Studies think-tank, said the US military would have cleared the skies over the South China Sea – which China claims and is rapidly militarizing – as the PLA deploys has started. Missiles on artificial islands that could pose a threat to aircraft.

Hours before Pelosi’s arrival, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi accused the US of causing trouble and “hollowing” its one China policy, whereby it embraces Beijing’s view that Taiwan is part of China.

While China has threatened to invade if Taipei refuses to submit to its control indefinitely, some military experts argue that Beijing’s military posture may reflect US-Taiwan engagement rather than being related to impending invasion plans. wants to discourage. He says that China and America are committed to avoid tension.

Pelosi flew to Taiwan over objections from the White House, which said her visit would unnecessarily increase tensions with Beijing that are already very high.

Publicly, White House officials have insisted that Pelosi has the right to schedule her own journey, as Congress is an independent branch of the US government. But President Joe Biden has sent several top officials, including National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan, in recent weeks to try to persuade him not to travel to Taiwan, citing potential travel risks.

Biden also recently said that the US military did not think the visit was a good idea, although defense officials have said that the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Mark Milley, only laid out the scenarios that emerged around his visit. and include the risks of their travel.

Ahead of his landing in Taipei, Foreign Minister Antony Blinken on Monday warned China not to engage in any activity in response to Pelosi’s visit.

The White House said there are indications that China is preparing for a military response that could include firing missiles into the Strait of Taiwan for the first time since the last major Taiwan crisis in 1995-96.

But despite earlier suggestions from analysts that Pelosi may keep the stops brief and low-key to avoid further tensions with China, she is spending the night and has a full schedule for Wednesday.

In the morning, Pelosi will visit Taiwan’s parliament and then meet with President Tsai Ing-wen, followed by lunch at the Taipei Guesthouse, the Japanese colonial-era mansion where the foreign ministry treats visiting dignitaries, and a human rights will visit the monument.

This would make his meeting a higher profile than that of Gingrich, who stayed only a few hours 25 years earlier.

Vincent Chao, a former assistant to Foreign Minister Joseph Wu and former head of the political division, said, “The Chinese always try to reduce precedent, but we need to push back and defend precedent in order to further squeeze our international space.” Is.” Taiwan’s Representative Office in Washington.

Taiwan’s government is torn between concerns about Chinese military aggression and worries that canceling Pelosi’s visit under Chinese pressure will strengthen Beijing’s quest to force Taiwan to reunify. “It has put us in a very awkward position,” a senior official said.

But Pelosi’s insistence on the trip has excited many Taiwanese.

“No one has the right to say whether Speaker Pelosi should come to Taiwan or not. Only she can decide, and should not feel threatened,” tweeted Kolas Yotaka, a former spokesman for the presidential office, who is running for office in local elections later this year.

“I look forward to his tour. It makes us feel less isolated, and believe that there are still people out there who maintain their beliefs and ideals.”

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