Pelosi offers praise, support for Taiwan during a visit that angered China

Pelosi offers praise, support for Taiwan during a visit that angered China

  • Pelosi tells President Tsai “we will not abandon Taiwan”
  • China steps up military activity around Taiwan
  • Taiwan’s military increases alertness level
  • China summoned US ambassador in Beijing

TAIPEI, Aug 3 (Reuters) – US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi left Taiwan on Wednesday after pledging solidarity and hailing its democracy, leaving a trail of Chinese anger over her brief visit to the self-ruled island that Beijing claims as its own.

China demonstrated its outrage over the highest-level US visit to the island in 25 years with a burst of military activity in surrounding waters, summoning the US ambassador in Beijing and halting several agricultural imports from Taiwan.

Some of China’s planned military exercises were to take place within Taiwan’s 12 nautical mile sea and air territory, according to Taiwan’s defense ministry, an unprecedented move a senior defense official described to reporters as “amounting to a sea and air blockade of Taiwan”.

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Taiwan scrambled jets on Wednesday to warn away 27 Chinese aircraft in its air defense zone, the island’s defense ministry said, adding that 22 of them crossed the median line separating the island from China. read more

Pelosi arrived with a congressional delegation on her unannounced but closely watched visit late on Tuesday, defying China’s repeated warnings, in a trip that she said demonstrated an unwavering US commitment to Taiwan’s democracy. read more

“Our delegation came to Taiwan to make unequivocally clear that we will not abandon Taiwan,” Pelosi told Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen, who Beijing suspects of pushing for formal independence – a red line for China. read more

“Now, more than ever, America’s solidarity with Taiwan is crucial, and that’s the message we are bringing here today,” Pelosi said during her roughly 19-hour visit.

A long-time China critic, especially on human rights, Pelosi met with a former Tiananmen activist, a Hong Kong bookseller who had been detained by China and a Taiwanese activist recently released by China.

The last US House speaker to go to Taiwan was Newt Gingrich in 1997. But Pelosi’s visit comes amid sharply deteriorating Sino-US relations, and during the past quarter century China has emerged as a far more powerful economic, military and geopolitical force.

China considers Taiwan part of its territory and has never renounced using force to bring it under its control. The United States warned China against using the visit as a pretext for military action against Taiwan.

In retaliation, China’s customs department announced a suspension of imports of citrus fruits and certain fish – chilled white striped hairtail and frozen horse mackerel – from Taiwan, while its commerce ministry banned export of natural sand to Taiwan.

While there was little sign of protest against US targets or consumer goods, there was a significant police presence outside the US consulate in Shanghai and what appeared to be more security than usual outside the embassy in Beijing.

Fury on the mainland over Pelosi’s defiance of Beijing was evident all over Chinese social media, with one blogger railing: “this old she-devil, she actually dares to come!” Pelosi is 82. read more

MILITARY DRILLS

Shortly after Pelosi’s arrival, China’s military announced joint air and sea drills near Taiwan and test launches of conventional missiles in the sea east of the island, with Chinese state news agency Xinhua describing live-fire drills and other exercises around Taiwan from Thursday to Sunday.

China’s foreign ministry said Pelosi’s visit seriously damages peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait, “has a severe impact on the political foundation of China-US relations, and seriously infringes upon China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.”

Before Pelosi’s arrival, Chinese warplanes buzzed the line dividing the Taiwan Strait. The Chinese military said it was on high alert and would launch “targeted military operations” in response to Pelosi’s visit.

White House national security spokesperson John Kirby said after Pelosi’s arrival in Taiwan that the United States “is not going to be intimidated” by China’s threats or bellicose rhetoric and that there is no reason her visit should precipitate a crisis or conflict.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken discussed the potential for Pelosi’s visit with counterpart Wang Yi during a G20 meeting in Bali last month, and said any such trip would be entirely Pelosi’s decision and independent of the US government, a senior US official said on Wednesday. read more

‘CHINA’S AMBITION’

The United States has no official diplomatic relations with Taiwan but is bound by American law to provide it with the means to defend itself. China views visits by US officials to Taiwan as sending an encouraging signal to the pro-independence camp on the island. Taiwan rejects China’s sovereignty claims, saying only the Taiwanese people can decide the island’s future.

Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov said during a visit to Myanmar that Pelosi’s trip was a deliberate US attempt to irritate China. read more

North Korea’s foreign ministry criticized Pelosi’s visit as US “reckless interference” in China’s internal affairs, the official KCNA said. read more

Taiwan’s military increased its alertness level. Its defense ministry said China was attempting to threaten key ports and cities with drills in the surrounding waters.

“The so-called drill areas are falling within the busiest international channels in the Indo-Pacific region,” a senior Taiwan official familiar with its security planning told Reuters.

“We can see China’s ambition: to make the Taiwan Strait non-international waters, as well as making the entire area west of the first island chain in the western pacific its sphere of influence,” the official said.

China’s foreign ministry said it has not seen its military drills around Taiwan causing any freedom-of-navigation issues.

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Reporting by Yimou Lee and Sarah Wu; Writing by Tony Munroe; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore, Stephen Coates and Will Dunham

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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