US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi arrived in Taiwan on Tuesday night and will meet with President Tsai Ing-wen the following day, as cross-strait tensions grew with China threatening to take strong measures in response to the visit.
Pelosi is the first holder of the powerful congressional post to visit Taiwan since Newt Gingrich in 1997. She is the third highest-ranking US official after President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris.
Tensions ran high across the Taiwan Strait as some media reported Tuesday that several Chinese military planes flew close to the median line dividing the strait. Beijing has warned that its military “will never sit idly by” and vowed to take “strong and resolute measures” to ensure its sovereignty and security interests.
Ahead of Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi lambasted the United States as the “biggest destroyer of peace today.”
Pelosi arrived in Malaysia on Tuesday, the second leg of an Asia tour after Singapore that will also see her travel to South Korea and Japan.
US National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said Monday in Washington that Pelosi “has the right to visit Taiwan” and she will make her own decisions as Congress is an independent branch of government.
Meanwhile, Kirby said nothing has changed regarding US commitment to the “one-China” policy and Washington does not support Taiwan independence.
China claims the self-ruled island as its own.
In Beijing, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying repeated China’s stern opposition to Pelosi’s Taiwan visit at a press conference Tuesday and expressed hope that Washington will be “very clear about the importance and sensitivity of this issue and how dangerous” it could be.
Blaming the United States for “making provocations which have led to the escalation of tensions in the Taiwan Strait,” she said Washington should take responsibility for all serious consequences.
Hua insisted that as Congress is a branch of the US government, Pelosi should strictly abide by the “one-China” policy maintained by the Biden administration. She also said the two countries remain in close communication at all levels and through various channels.
The office of the House speaker said in a press release issued Sunday that Pelosi is leading a delegation to the Indo-Pacific region to “reaffirm America’s strong and unshakable commitment to our allies and friends in the region,” but it did not mention Taiwan.
Pelosi had originally planned to visit Taiwan in April, but the trip was postponed after she tested positive for COVID-19.
In a phone call last Thursday, Chinese President Xi Jinping warned Biden regarding Taiwan not to question the “strong will” of the 1.4 billion people of China.
Taiwan and China have been governed separately since they split in 1949 due to a civil war. Beijing regards the island as a renegade province to be reunified with the mainland, by force if necessary.
The United States switched its diplomatic recognition from Taipei to Beijing in 1979, but it has maintained unofficial relations with Taiwan and supplies it with defensive weapons under an act passed by the US Congress that same year. — Kyodo News