TAIPEI, August 2 2022 (Reuters) :
- Chinese warplanes buzz Taiwan Strait dividing line
- U.S. House speaker’s visit has enraged Beijing
- Beijing insists self-ruled Taiwan is part of China
TAIPEI, August 2 2022 (Reuters) :
U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi arrived in Taiwan late on Tuesday on a trip she said was intended to express American solidarity with the Chinese-claimed island, the first such visit in 25 years and one that risks pushing relations between Washington and Beijing to a new low.
Pelosi and her delegation disembarked from a U.S. Air Force transport plan at Songshan Airport in downtown Taipei and were greeted by Taiwan’s foreign minister, Joseph Wu and Sandra Oudkirk, the top U.S. representative in Taiwan.
China immediately condemned Pelosi’s visit, with the foreign ministry saying it seriously damages peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait, “has a severe impact on the political foundation of China-U.S. relations, and seriously infringes upon China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.” The ministry said it had lodged a strong protest with the United States.
Pelosi, who is second in the line of succession to the U.S. presidency and a long-time critic of Beijing, was on a tour of Asia that includes announced visits to Singapore, Malaysia, South Korea and Japan. Her stop in Taiwan had not been announced but had been widely anticipated.
“We cannot stand by as the CCP proceeds to threaten Taiwan – and democracy itself,” Pelosi said, referring to the Chinese Communist Party.
Pelosi also cited China’s “brutal crackdown” against political dissent in Hong Kong, as well as its treatment of Muslim Uighurs and other minorities, which the United States has deemed genocide.
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said earlier on Tuesday that U.S. politicians who “play with fire” on the Taiwan issue will “come to no good end”.
White House national security spokesperson John Kirby said after Pelosi’s arrival that the United States “is not going to be intimidated” by threats or bellicose rhetoric from China. Kirby said the visit is not a violation of either any sovereignty issues or America’s longstanding “one-China policy.”
“There’s no reason for this visit to become a spurring event for a crisis or conflict,” Kirby added.
Taiwan’s presidential office said President Tsai Ing-wen will meet with Pelosi on Wednesday morning and would have lunch with her. Four sources said she was also scheduled on Wednesday afternoon to meet a group of activists who are outspoken about China’s human rights record.
Pelosi, 82, is a close ally of U.S. President Joe Biden, both being members of the Democratic Party, and has been a key figure in guiding his legislative agenda through the U.S. Congress.
On Tuesday night, Taiwan’s tallest building, Taipei 101, lit up with messages including: “Welcome to Taiwan”, “Speaker Pelosi”, “Taiwan (heart) USA”.
With tensions already high, several Chinese warplanes flew close to the median line dividing the Taiwan Strait on Tuesday morning before leaving later in the day, a source told Reuters. Several Chinese warships have also sailed near the unofficial dividing line since Monday and remained there, the source said.
Neither side’s aircraft normally cross the median line.
Four U.S. warships, including the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan, were positioned in waters east of Taiwan on what the U.S. Navy called routine deployments. The carrier had transited the South China Sea and was now in the Philippines Sea, east of Taiwan and the Philippines and south of Japan, a U.S. Navy official told Reuters.
It was operating with the guided missile cruiser USS Antietam and destroyer USS Higgins, with the amphibious assault ship USS Tripoli also in the area.
Since last week, China’s PLA has conducted various exercises, including live-fire drills, in the South China Sea, Yellow Sea and Bohai Sea, in a show of Chinese military might.
China views visits by U.S. officials to Taiwan as sending an encouraging signal to the pro-independence camp on the democratic, self-governed island. Beijing considers Taiwan to be part of its territory and has never renounced using force to bring the island under its control. Taiwan rejects China’s sovereignty claims and says only its people can decide the island’s future.
The United States has no official diplomatic relations with Taiwan but is bound by American law to provide the island with the means to defend itself.
Russia – itself locked in confrontation with the West over its invasion of Ukraine – also chimed in on Pelosi’s expected visit. Maria Zakharova, Russia’s foreign ministry spokeswoman, said the visit was a provocative U.S. attempt to pile pressure on China, a country with which Russia has forged a strong partnership in recent years.
“The USA is a state provocateur,” Zakharova said. “Russia confirms the principle of ‘one China’ and opposes the independence of the island in any form.”
Earlier on Tuesday, Pelosi visited Malaysia, having begun her Asia tour in Singapore on Monday. Her office said she would also go to South Korea and Japan but made no mention of a Taiwan visit.
Taiwan’s Defence Ministry said it had a full grasp of military activities near Taiwan and that it would dispatch forces appropriately in reaction to “enemy threats”.
China’s defence and foreign ministries did not respond to requests for comment.
In the southeastern Chinese city of Xiamen, which lies opposite Taiwan and has a large military presence, residents reported sightings of armoured vehicles.
During a phone call last Thursday, Chinese President Xi Jinping warned Biden that Washington should abide by the one-China principle and “those who play with fire will perish by it”. Biden told Xi that U.S. policy on Taiwan had not changed and that Washington strongly opposes unilateral efforts to change the status quo or undermine peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait.
Bonnie Glaser, a Taiwan expert at the German Marshall Fund of the United States, told reporters in a call that the damage to American-Chinese relations done by the Pelosi visit would be hard to repair.
“We all know how bad this relationship has been in the past year. And I just think that this visit by Nancy Pelosi is just going to take it to a new low,” Glaser said. “And I think that it’s going to be very difficult to recover from that.”
TAIPEI, Aug 2, 2022 (BSS/AFP) – United States House Speaker Nancy Pelosi
landed in Taiwan on Tuesday evening, defying a string of increasingly stark
warnings and threats from China that have sent tensions between the world’s two
Pelosi, second in line to the presidency, is the highest-profile elected US
official to visit Taiwan in 25 years and Beijing has made clear that it regards
her presence as a major provocation, setting the region on edge.
Live television images showed the 82-year-old lawmaker, who flew on a US
military aircraft into Taipei Songshan Airport, being greeted on arrival by
foreign minister Joseph Wu.
Pelosi is currently on a tour of Asia and while neither she nor her office
confirmed the Taipei visit, multiple US and Taiwanese media outlets reported it
was on the cards — triggering days of anger from Beijing.
Moments before her arrival, Chinese state media announced advanced Su-35
fighter jets were crossing the Taiwan Strait. The brief report had no details
on timing or precise location of the crossing.
“The US breach of faith on the Taiwan issue is despicable,” Chinese foreign
minister Wang Yi said in comments published on his ministry’s website earlier
Tuesday that did not specifically mention Pelosi.
– No need for ‘crisis’ –
China considers self-ruled, democratic Taiwan as its territory and has
vowed to one day seize the island, by force if necessary.
It tries to keep Taiwan isolated on the world stage and opposes countries
having official exchanges with Taipei.
In a call with US President Joe Biden last week, Chinese President Xi
Jinping warned the United States against “playing with fire” on Taiwan.
While the Biden administration is understood to be opposed to a Taiwan
stop, White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said Pelosi
was entitled to go where she pleased.
“There is no reason for Beijing to turn a potential visit consistent with
longstanding US policies into some sort of crisis,” he told reporters.
The last House Speaker to visit Taiwan was Newt Gingrich in 1997.
Kirby cited intelligence that China was preparing possible military
provocations. He said that while Washington did not fear a direct attack on
Pelosi’s plane, it “raises the stakes of a miscalculation”.
Kirby reiterated, however, that US policy was unchanged toward Taiwan.
This means support for its self-ruling government, while diplomatically
recognising Beijing over Taipei and opposing a formal independence declaration
by Taiwan or a forceful takeover by China.
Meanwhile, Moscow said it was “absolutely in solidarity with China”,
calling the prospect of a Pelosi visit “pure provocation”.
China has refused to condemn Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and has been
accused of providing diplomatic cover for the Kremlin by blasting Western
sanctions and arms sales to Kyiv.
– All eyes on Taiwan –
Pelosi left Kuala Lumpur Tuesday after meeting Malaysian Prime Minister
Ismail Sabri and Foreign Minister Saifuddin Abdullah.
So many people were tracking the US military plane ferrying her on
FlightRadar that the website said some users experienced outages.
The plane took a circuitous route that studiously avoided the South China
Sea — which Beijing claims — before heading up the east coast of the
Press access around Pelosi has been tightly restricted so far and limited
to a handful or short statements confirming meetings with officials.
Her itinerary includes stops in South Korea and Japan — but the prospect
of a Taiwan trip had dominated attention.
Taipei’s government remained silent on whether she would visit even as
local media published reports showing her presence was all but guaranteed.
The capital’s famous Taipei 101 skyscraper was illuminated with the words
“Speaker Pelosi… Thank You” on Tuesday night before her plane had arrived.
– ‘Seek to punish Taiwan’ –
Taiwan’s 23 million people have long lived with the possibility of an
invasion, but that threat has intensified under Xi, China’s most assertive
ruler in a generation.
The island’s military on Tuesday said it was “determined” to defend it
against increased threats by China over the potential Pelosi visit.
“The probability of war or a serious incident is low,” tweeted Bonnie
Glaser, director of the Asia programme at the US-based German Marshall Fund
“But the probability that… (China) will take a series of military,
economic, and diplomatic actions to show strength & resolve is not
insignificant,” she added.
“Likely it will seek to punish Taiwan in myriad ways.”
Taipei’s Council of Agriculture on Tuesday said China had suspended the
import of some Taiwanese goods, including some fishery products, tea, and
honey. The council said China cited regulatory breaches.
Pelosi’s potential visit has been proceeded by a flurry of military
activity across the region that highlights how combustible the issue of Taiwan
is. Last week both Taiwan and China held live fire drills.
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