House Speaker Nancy Pelosi arrived in Taiwan late Tuesday local time amid warnings from China and concerns from the White House. Pelosi said her trip demonstrates American solidarity with the Chinese-claimed self-ruled island, while China has condemned the first such visit in 25 years as a threat to peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait.
Pelosi and the rest of her delegation disembarked from a U.S. Air Force transport plane at Songshan Airport indowntown Taipei after the night time landing on a flight from Malaysia to begin a visit that risks pushing U.S. – Chinese relations to a new low. They were greeted by Taiwan’s foreign minister, Joseph Wu, and Sandra Oudkirk, the top U.S. representative in Taiwan.
Speaker Pelosi is a Democrat from California and is the highest-ranking elected official from the U.S. to visit Taiwan since former Speaker Newt Gingrich’s trip in 1997. She had been mulling taking the trip for weeks, and speculation grew as she arrived in Singapore on Monday to start her Asia tour. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian threatened that the People’s Liberation Army would not “sit idly by” should Pelosi ignore the warning and make the visit, Bloomberg reported.
Pelosi is on a tour of Asia that includes announced visits to Singapore, Malaysia, South Korea and Japan. Her stop inTaiwan was unannounced but widely anticipated.
Shortly after landing Tuesday evening, Pelosi issued a statement declaring in part, “Our congressional delegation’s visit to Taiwan honors America’s solidarity with the 23 million people of Taiwan and is more important today than ever, as the world faces a choice between autocracy and democracy, with unwavering commitment to supporting Taiwan’s vibrant Democracy.”
On Monday, during the press briefing, White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby rebuked China’s rhetoric over the much-anticipated trip, and he reiterated that the U.S. policy regarding Taiwan remains unchanged. Kirby also commented, “There is no reason for Beijing to turn a potential visit consistent with long-standing U.S. policy into some sort of crisis to use it as a pretext to increase aggressive military in or around the Taiwan Strait.
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 also said, “The ministry has lodged a strong protest with the United States.”
Chinese warplanes buzzed the line dividing the Taiwan Strait before Pelosi’s arrival. The Chinese military has been put on high alert and will launch “Targeted military operations in response to Pelosi’s visit,” the defense ministry said.
Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen will meet with Pelosi, the second in the line of succession to the U.S. presidency and along-time critic of Beijing, on Wednesday morning and then have lunch together, the presidential office said. Speaker Pelosi is traveling with six other American lawmakers.
This is an ongoing news report and will be updated with any new developments.
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