US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi has arrived in Taiwan for a trip she says is aimed at expressing American solidarity with the island claimed by China, the first such visit in 25 year.
Ms Pelosi and her delegation disembarked from a US Air Force transport plane at Songshan Airport in downtown Taipei and were greeted by Taiwan Foreign Minister Joseph Wu and Sandra Oudkirk, the highest representative of the United States in Taiwan.
“Our congressional delegation’s visit to Taiwan honors America’s unwavering commitment to supporting Taiwan’s vibrant democracy,” Pelosi said in a statement shortly after landing.
“America’s solidarity with Taiwan’s 23 million people is more important now than ever, as the world faces a choice between autocracy and democracy.”
China immediately condemned Pelosi’s visit, with the Foreign Ministry saying it seriously undermines peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait, “has a serious impact on the political foundations of China-US relations and seriously undermines China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.”
The ministry said it had filed a strong protest with the United States. Chinese warplanes flew over the line dividing the Taiwan Strait on Tuesday ahead of its arrival, and Chinese state media reported that the People’s Liberation Army would hold drills near Taiwan from Thursday to Sunday.
Pelosi, second in line to the US presidency and a longtime critic of China, was on an Asia tour that included announced visits to Singapore, Malaysia, South Korea and Japan.
His stopover in Taiwan had not been announced but had been widely anticipated. In a Washington Post opinion piece published shortly after her arrival, Ms Pelosi explained the reasons for her visit, praising Taiwan’s commitment to democratic government while criticizing China as having significantly increased tensions with Taiwan. these last years.
“We cannot sit idly by as the CCP continues to threaten Taiwan — and democracy itself,” Ms. Pelosi said, referring to the Chinese Communist Party. Ms Pelosi also cited China’s “brutal crackdown” on political dissent in Hong Kong as well as its treatment of Muslim Uyghurs and other minorities, which the US government has called genocide.
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said earlier Tuesday that US politicians who “play with fire” on the Taiwan issue “will not come to any good”.
White House national security spokesman John Kirby said after Pelosi’s arrival that the United States “will not be intimidated” by threats or belligerent rhetoric from China.
Mr Kirby said the visit was not a violation of either sovereignty issues or the long-standing “one China policy”.
“There is no reason for this visit to become a stimulating event for a crisis or a conflict,” Mr. Kirby added.
Taiwan’s presidential office said President Tsai Ing-wen would meet Ms Pelosi on Wednesday morning and have lunch with her.
Four sources said she was also due to meet a group of activists on Wednesday afternoon who are outspoken about China’s human rights record.
Ms Pelosi, 82, is a close ally of US President Joe Biden, both members of the Democratic Party, and has played a key role in guiding his legislative agenda through the US Congress.
On Tuesday evening, Taiwan’s tallest building, Taipei 101, lit up with messages such as: “Welcome to Taiwan”, “Speaker Pelosi”, “Taiwan (heart) USA”.
With tensions already high, several Chinese warplanes flew near the midline dividing the Taiwan Strait on Tuesday morning before heading back out later in the day, a source told Reuters.
Several Chinese warships have also sailed near the unofficial demarcation line since Monday and remained there, the source said. The Chinese plane repeatedly made tactical moves of briefly “touching” the center line and returning across the strait while Taiwanese planes were waiting nearby, the person said.
Aircraft of both sides do not normally cross the center line. Four US warships, including the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan, were positioned in waters east of Taiwan as part of what the US Navy called routine deployments.
The carrier had transited through the South China Sea and was now in the Philippine Sea, east of Taiwan and the Philippines and south of Japan, a US Navy official told Reuters.
China sees visits by US officials to Taiwan as an encouraging signal for the pro-independence camp on the democratic and self-governing island.
China considers Taiwan to be part of its territory and has never renounced the use of 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 does not have formal diplomatic relations with Taiwan but is required by US law to provide the island with the means to defend itself.