US House Speaker Pelosi arrives in Taiwan, challenging Beijing

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US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi arrived in Taiwan on Tuesday evening, becoming the highest ranking US official in 25 years to visit the self-governing island claimed by China, which quickly announced it would lead maneuvers soldiers in retaliation for his presence.

Taiwan’s foreign minister and other Taiwanese and US officials greeted Pelosi on the tarmac at Taipei International Airport. His visit has raised tensions between China and the United States because China claims Taiwan as part of its territory and views visits by foreign government officials as recognition of the island’s sovereignty.

The speaker, who arrived on a US Air Force plane, has sought for decades to draw attention to China’s democratic movements. She visited Tiananmen Square in 1991, two years after China crushed a wave of protests against democracy.

The Biden administration has not explicitly urged Pelosi to cancel his plans. He repeatedly and publicly assured Beijing that the visit would not signal any change in US policy on Taiwan.

Shortly after Pelosi’s arrival, China announced a series of military operations and exercises, which followed promises of “resolute and strong measures” if Pelosi went through with his visit.

The People’s Liberation Army said the maneuvers would take place from Tuesday evening in the waters and skies near Taiwan and would include the firing of long-range ordnance in the Taiwan Strait.

“This action is a solemn deterrent against the recent major escalation of negative actions by the United States on the Taiwan issue, and a serious warning to the ‘Taiwan independence’ forces seeking ‘independence.’

China’s official Xinhua News Agency said the military plans to conduct live-fire drills from Aug. 4 to 7 in several locations. In an image released by the news agency, the exercises were to take place in six different areas of the waters surrounding Taiwan.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said Washington’s betrayal “on the Taiwan issue is ruining its national credibility”.

“Some American politicians are playing with fire on the Taiwan issue,” Wang said in a statement. “It certainly won’t have a good outcome…the exposure of America’s intimidating face shows it again as the world’s greatest wrecker of peace.”

Back in the United States, 26 Republican lawmakers issued a rare statement of bipartisan support for the Democratic president. The statement calls trips by members of Congress to Taiwan routine.

Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell said he supported Pelosi’s visit as a show of support for Taiwanese democracy and said any allegation that his itinerary was provocative was “total nonsense”.

“I think she has every right to go,” McConnell said in a speech to the Senate.

In a statement released shortly after his arrival, Pelosi said the visit “honors America’s unwavering commitment to supporting Taiwan’s vibrant democracy.”

“Our visit is one of many congressional delegations to Taiwan – and it in no way contradicts long-standing US policy,” she said.

Taiwan’s foreign ministry had declined to say whether Pelosi would surrender. The trip was not officially announced in advance.

Barricades were erected in front of the Grand Hyatt hotel in Taipei. Reporters and onlookers thronged the streets and crowded against hotel lobby windows waiting for Pelosi’s motorcade. Two buildings in the capital lit up LED screens with words of welcome, including the iconic Taipei 101 building, which read “Welcome to Taiwan, President Pelosi”.

China, which sees Taiwan as a renegade province to be annexed by force if necessary, has repeatedly warned against reprisals, saying its military will “never sit idly by”.

“The United States and Taiwan agreed to make provocations first, and China was only forced to act in self-defense,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua said. Chunying to reporters in Beijing.

Shortly after Pelosi’s arrival, a representative of China’s Legislative Standing Committee issued a statement saying the trip “seriously violates” the “one China principle”, which is Beijing’s claim to be the sole government of mainland China and Taiwan.

China’s military threats have raised concerns that a new crisis in the 100-mile (140-kilometre) wide Taiwan Strait could upend global markets and supply chains.

The White House on Monday denounced Beijing’s rhetoric, saying the United States had no interest in deepening tensions with China and “will not take the bait or indulge in swordplay.”

White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby stressed that the decision to travel to Taiwan ultimately rests with Pelosi.

Kirby said administration officials fear Beijing could use the visit as an excuse to take provocative retaliatory measures, including military action.

“Put simply, there is no reason for Beijing to turn a potential visit in line with long-standing US policy into some kind of crisis or use it as a pretext to increase aggressive military activity in or around the Strait. of Taiwan,” Kirby said.

US officials said the US military would increase its movements in the Indo-Pacific region during Pelosi’s visit. The USS Ronald Reagan aircraft carrier and its strike group were in the Philippine Sea on Monday, according to officials who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the military operations.

The Reagan, the cruiser USS Antietam and the destroyer USS Higgins left Singapore after a stopover and headed north to their home port in Japan. The carrier has a range of aircraft, including F/A-18 fighter jets and helicopters, as well as sophisticated radar systems and other weapons.

Taiwan and China separated in 1949 after the communists won a civil war on the mainland. The United States maintains informal relations and defense ties with Taiwan even though it recognizes Beijing as the government of China.

Beijing sees official US contact with Taiwan as encouragement to make the island’s decades-old de facto independence permanent, a step US leaders say they do not support. Pelosi, head of one of the three branches of the US government, is the highest elected US official to visit Taiwan since then-President Newt Gingrich in 1997.

Flight tracking site Flightradar24 said Pelosi’s plane, an Air Force version of the Boeing 737, was the most watched in the world on Tuesday night with 300,000 viewers. The plane took a circuitous route, flying east over Indonesia rather than directly over the South China Sea.

Pelosi used his position to be an envoy for the United States on the world stage. She has long challenged China on human rights, including in 2009 when she hand-delivered a letter to then-President Hu Jintao calling for the release of political prisoners. She had sought to visit Taiwan’s island democracy earlier this year before testing positive for COVID-19.

China has steadily increased diplomatic and military pressure on Taiwan. China cut off all contact with the Taiwanese government in 2016 after President Tsai Ing-wen refused to endorse his claim that the island and mainland together form a single Chinese nation, with the communist regime in Beijing the only one. legitimate government.

Pelosi kicked off her Asian tour on Monday in Singapore. She is due to travel to Japan and South Korea later this week.

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By HUIZHONG WU and EILEEN NG Associated Press

Ng reported from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Associated Press reporters Jim Gomez in Manila, Philippines, and Mari Yamaguchi in Tokyo contributed to this report.

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