Pelosi lands in Taiwan amid high-pressure conflict with China

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House Speaker Nancy Pelosi landed in the Taiwanese capital Taipei on Tuesday and arrived for a controversial stop on her tour of Asian countries that has become a focal point amid mounting tensions between the US and China.

Pelosi and other members of Congress emerged from a US military plane that landed in Taipei on Tuesday evening, where they were greeted by a contingent of Taiwanese officials on the tarmac. The plane was traveling from Kuala Lumpur on a flight path that avoided the South China Sea and mainland China, according to tracking website FlightAware.

Pelosi’s trip to Taiwan has been shrouded in secrecy and has fueled Beijing’s anger, raising the prospect of a military response to the visit. The White House has said it has no control over Pelosi’s decision to visit the island, and has maintained that there has been no change in US policy toward Taiwan and the Chinese government.

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Second in line for president, Pelosi is the most senior US official to visit the island in 25 years. The California Democrat’s history of pushback against Beijing dates back to 1991, when she displayed a pro-democracy banner in Tiananmen Square, defying Chinese officials.

In a statement shortly after the plane landed, Pelosi said her visit was to honor “America’s unwavering commitment to support Taiwan’s vibrant democracy.”

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“Our discussions with the Taiwanese leadership will focus on reaffirming our support for our partner and advancing our shared interests, including promoting a free and open Indo-Pacific region,” she said. “America’s solidarity with Taiwan’s 23 million people is more important than ever today as the world faces a choice between autocracy and democracy.”

The speaker stressed that the visit “does not contradict in any way the United States’ long-standing policy” towards Taiwan and China, and said the US “continues to oppose unilateral attempts to change the status quo.” change”.

In an op-ed for The Washington Post explaining her rationale for the visit, Pelosi criticized Beijing’s actions in Hong Kong, Tibet, Xinjiang and across the mainland, saying that China’s “bottomless human rights record and disregard for the rule of law continue as president.” Xi Jinping is tightening his grip on power.”

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A Taiwanese government official said Pelosi was expected to meet with President Tsai Ing-wen and members of the Taipei legislature. The US delegation is expected to stay in the capital on Tuesday night and meet all day on Wednesday before leaving.

The Taipei 101 skyscraper, the island’s iconic tallest building, flashed messages ahead of its arrival Tuesday evening to welcome Pelosi to the capital.

American House Speaker Nancy Pelosi arrives in Taipei
The Taipei 101 building lit up with a message reading “Speaker Pelosi” as a welcome sign for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit in Taipei, Taiwan, on Tuesday, August 2, 2022.

Bloomberg


Beijing considers self-governed Taiwan a part of China, and Chinese officials have warned they would view Pelosi’s visit as a major provocation.

During a two-hour phone call with President Biden last week, Chinese President Xi Jinping demanded that Pelosi cancel the trip. Earlier in July, Mr Biden said: US military officials thought it was “not a good idea” for Pelosi to visit Taiwan now.

According to Reuters, China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said on Monday that the military “would not stand idly by” if Pelosi paid a visit. During a daily briefing, Lijan said a visit by the “No. 3 US government official” “would lead to enormous political impact”.

On Monday, National Security Council spokesman John Kirby confirmed that Pelosi was traveling on a US military plane and said she had been briefed about Taiwan.

“There have been direct talks with the speaker and her staff before she left at various levels in the National Security Institute,” Kirby said, although he has not confirmed any plans of hers to travel to Taiwan. “The president has not spoken directly to the speaker about this trip.”

Kirby said “the speaker makes her own decisions” when asked if the military still felt it wasn’t a good idea for her to go. “What we did was provide her with context, analysis, facts and information so she could make the best possible decision for each stop for any overseas journey,” added Kirby.

But Kirby warned of China’s “saber chatter,” including military provocations such as the possible firing of missiles into the Taiwan Strait and large-scale air access to Taiwan’s airspace. He also cited diplomatic escalations, such as Beijing’s public claim last week that the Taiwan Strait is not an international waterway.

“Some of these actions would continue with respect to trendlines we’ve seen in recent years, but some may be of a different scope and scale,” Kirby said. “The last time Beijing fired missiles into the Taiwan Strait was in 1995 and 1996 after Beijing provocatively reacted to the Taiwanese president’s visit to deliver a speech at his alma mater.”

The rift between Taiwan and the mainland government began in 1949, when Chinese nationalists fled to the island amid a civil war with the Chinese Communist Party. The Taiwanese government considers itself the legitimate government of China. Beijing considers the island a breakaway rogue state and part of its own territory.

The US recognized Beijing as the legitimate Chinese government in 1979 and does not support Taiwanese independence, but maintained informal ties with the government, following a policy of “strategic ambiguity”. A 2018 law known as the Taiwan Travel Act made the relationship between the US and Taiwan official, but below the level of formal diplomatic ties.

Pelosi is not the first Speaker of the House to visit Taiwan. Former chairman Newt Gingrich, a Republican, visited in 1997. Other US officials have made unobtrusive visits to Taiwan to show support for the island, but Pelosi’s visit has received much more attention.

Ramy Inocencio, Nancy Cordes, Kathryn Krupnick and Rebecca Kaplan reported.