Pelosi arrives in Taiwan amid tensions between the US and China

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House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has arrived in Taiwan with five of her Democratic colleagues, making her the first House Leader to visit the island since then-Speaker Newt Gingrich traveled there in 1997.

The US Air Force jet — a modified Boeing 737 known as a C-40B — carrying Ms. Pelosi and her colleagues landed at Songshan Airport in Taipai at 10:45 p.m. local time on Tuesday, after an approximately seven-hour flight from Kuala Lumpur. , Malaysia. The military plane followed a circuitous route around the east coast of the Philippines, approaching Taiwan from the east to avoid the South China Sea.

The House Speaker’s visit to Taiwan, which is independently governed but claimed by the Chinese government as part of its own territory, comes amid tensions between Washington and Beijing over US support for the island.

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Ms. Pelosi’s trip to Taiwan, which was not on her public schedule and was not confirmed by her office before leaving the US last weekend, cost a significant portion of a phone call between President Joe Biden and his Chinese counterpart, Xi, last week. Jinping. According to a read from the talk released by China’s foreign ministry, Mr Xi warned Mr Biden that a visit to the island by Ms Pelosi, who is second in the presidential line of succession, would be “games”.[ing] with fire”.

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On Monday, National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said China had responded to the possibility of Ms. Pelosi’s visit, which had not been publicly announced before her departure from the US over the weekend, due to military activity near the U.S. to raise the island.

Kirby said Chinese forces appear to be “positioning themselves” for “further steps in the coming days,” including “military provocations, such as firing missiles into the Taiwan Strait or around Taiwan” or “operations that violate historical standards,” including a “large-scale air entry into Taiwan’s Air Defense Identification Zone”.

But Mr Kirby also stressed that long-standing US policy towards the island has not changed. He said Chinese leaders must be sufficiently familiar with the US government to understand that Ms Pelosi’s travel plans are not under the control of the executive branch.

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“The Speaker has the right to visit Taiwan and a Speaker of the House has visited Taiwan before without incident, like many members of Congress, including this year,” he said. “Nothing has changed in our ‘one China policy’, which is, of course, guided by the Taiwan Relations Act, the three joint US-PRC communiqués [and] the six certainties”.

He later added that the US continues to oppose “unilateral changes in the status quo from both sides”.

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