US House Speaker Pelosi arrives in Taiwan, challenging Beijing

TAIPEI, Taiwan (AP) — U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi arrived in Taiwan Tuesday evening, becoming the highest-ranking U.S. official in 25 years to visit the self-governing island claimed by China.

TAIPEI, Taiwan (AP) — U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi arrived in Taiwan Tuesday evening, becoming the highest-ranking U.S. official in 25 years to visit the Chinese-claimed self-governing island, which has quickly announced that it would carry out military maneuvers in retaliation. for his presence.

Pelosi flew aboard a US Air Force passenger plane and was greeted on the tarmac at Taipei International Airport by Taiwan’s foreign minister and other Taiwanese and US officials. She posed for photos before her motorcade took her unseen into a hotel parking lot.

His visit has raised tensions between China and the United States because China claims Taiwan as part of its territory and views visits by foreign government officials as recognition of the island’s sovereignty.

The Biden administration and Pelosi say the United States remains committed to the so-called one-China policy, which recognizes Beijing but allows informal relations and defense ties with Taipei.

The speaker described the trip as part of a larger mission at a time when “the world faces a choice between autocracy and democracy”. Her visit comes after she led a congressional delegation to the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv in the spring, and it serves as a cornerstone of her many years of promoting democracy abroad.

“We must support Taiwan,” she said in an opinion piece published by The Washington Post upon her arrival in Taiwan. She cited the commitment the United States made to a democratic Taiwan under a 1979 law.

“It is essential that America and our allies make it clear that we never give in to autocrats,” she wrote.

Taiwan and China separated in a civil war in 1949, but China claims the island as its own territory and has not ruled out using military force to take it.

The Biden administration has not explicitly urged Pelosi to cancel his plans. He repeatedly and publicly assured Beijing that the visit signaled no change in US policy toward Taiwan.

Shortly after Pelosi’s arrival, China announced a series of military operations and exercises, which followed promises of “resolute and strong measures” if Pelosi went through with his visit.

The People’s Liberation Army said the maneuvers would take place in the waters and skies near Taiwan and would include firing long-range ammunition across the Taiwan Strait.

“This action is a solemn deterrent against the recent major escalation of negative actions by the United States on the Taiwan issue, and a serious warning to the ‘Taiwan independence’ forces seeking ‘independence.’

China’s official Xinhua News Agency said the military plans to conduct live-fire drills from Aug. 4 to 7 in several locations. An image released by the news agency said the drills were to take place in six different areas of the waters surrounding Taiwan.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said Washington’s betrayal “on the Taiwan issue is ruining its national credibility”.

“Some American politicians are playing with fire on the Taiwan issue,” Wang said in a statement calling the United States “the world’s biggest peace saboteur.”

Back in the United States, 26 Republican lawmakers issued a rare statement of bipartisan support for the Democratic president. The statement calls trips by members of Congress to Taiwan routine.

Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell backed Pelosi’s visit as a show of support for Taiwanese democracy and said any allegation that his itinerary was provocative was “total nonsense”.

“I think she has every right to go,” McConnell said in a speech to the Senate.

Senators are considering legislation to bolster Taiwan’s defense in direct response to China’s rhetoric. The Taiwan Policy Act, which enjoys support from both parties, will be discussed by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Wednesday.

The package would bolster Taiwan’s defense capabilities with nearly $4.5 billion in security assistance over the next four years and provide further support for Taiwan’s democratic government and civil society. The measure would also designate Taiwan as a “major non-NATO ally”, opening the door to more security and trade benefits.

Backers call it the most comprehensive restructuring of US policy toward Taiwan since the Taiwan Relations Act of 1979.

Pelosi’s trip was not officially announced in advance.

Barricades were erected in front of the Grand Hyatt hotel in Taipei. Reporters and onlookers filled the streets just outside and crowded against the hotel lobby windows as they waited for Pelosi’s motorcade. Two buildings in the capital lit up LED screens with words of welcome, including the iconic Taipei 101 building, which read “Welcome to Taiwan, President Pelosi”.

China has stepped up overflights and other provocative moves into Taiwan and neighboring territory in recent years, asserting broad claims to its rights in the region.

China’s military threats have raised concerns about a new crisis in the 100-mile (140 kilometer) wide Taiwan Strait that could upend global markets and supply chains.

The White House has insisted China has no cause for anger.

“The United States will not seek or want a crisis,” National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said during a White House press briefing on Tuesday. “At the same time, we will not engage in bullshit.”

US officials said the US military would increase its movements in the Indo-Pacific region during Pelosi’s visit. The USS Ronald Reagan aircraft carrier and its strike group were in the Philippine Sea on Monday, according to officials who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the military operations.

The Reagan, the cruiser USS Antietam and the destroyer USS Higgins left Singapore after a stopover and headed north to their home port in Japan.

Meanwhile, Taiwan’s Defense Ministry said Wednesday morning that China had sent 21 planes flying to Taiwan, including 18 fighter jets. The rest included an early warning aircraft and an electronic warfare aircraft.

Beijing sees official US contact with Taiwan as encouragement to make the island’s decades-old de facto independence permanent, a step US leaders say they do not support. Pelosi, head of one of the three branches of the US government, is the highest elected US official to visit Taiwan since then-President Newt Gingrich in 1997.

Pelosi’s plane, an Air Force version of the Boeing 737, took a circuitous route, flying east over Indonesia rather than directly over the South China Sea .

The speaker has long challenged China on human rights, including visiting Tiananmen Square in 1991, two years after China crushed a wave of anti-democracy protests.

In 2009, she personally delivered a letter to then-President Hu Jintao calling for the release of political prisoners. She had sought to visit Taiwan’s island democracy earlier this year before testing positive for COVID-19.

China has steadily increased diplomatic and military pressure on Taiwan. China cut off all contact with the Taiwanese government in 2016 after President Tsai Ing-wen refused to endorse his claim that the island and mainland together form a single Chinese nation, with the communist regime in Beijing the only one. legitimate government.

Pelosi kicked off her Asian tour on Monday in Singapore. She is due to travel to Japan and South Korea later this week.

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Ng reported from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Associated Press reporters Jim Gomez in Manila, Philippines, Mari Yamaguchi in Tokyo and Zeke Miller in Washington contributed to this report.

Huizhong Wu, Eileen Ng and Lisa Mascaro, Associated Press