Pelosi’s visit infuriated China, which for years has sought to isolate the island diplomatically and sees such exchanges with foreign dignitaries as support for Taiwan independence. The Chinese Communist Party claims Taiwan, a democratic, self-governing country with a population of 23 million, as its territory even though it has never ruled it. Chinese leader Xi Jinping has vowed to “reunify” Taiwan with China by force if necessary.
Taiwan’s official Central News Agency reported that the island’s military forces beefed up their preparations on Tuesday morning and will remain in a “strong” state of readiness until midday Thursday.
Taipei 101, the tallest skyscraper in Taiwan, lit up with Pelosi’s welcome message in English and Chinese. At Songshan Airport, a small group of supporters waited to receive her.
“I am very happy that Speaker of the House Pelosi has come to show her support,” said Liu Yuh Hsia, 72, holding a sign that reads, “President Pelosi, welcome to the Republic of Taiwan.”
“We have nothing to do with China. We don’t want to unite with them,” added Liu, who has been defending Taiwan’s formal independence for decades.
Taiwan’s Defense Ministry said in a statement that the military is closely monitoring all air and sea activities to ensure the island’s security with “determination, ability and confidence”.
Meanwhile, Chinese naval authorities announced additional military exercises in the South China Sea and live-fire exercises in the Bohai Sea, near the Korean Peninsula, this week. Reuters, citing an unnamed source, reported that Chinese combat aircraft flew on Tuesday near the middle line of the Taiwan Strait, the unofficial military border. Meanwhile, China’s Xiamen Airlines announced that at least 30 flights were disrupted due to air traffic restrictions in China’s Fujian Province directly across the strait from Taiwan.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying accused the United States on Tuesday of escalating tensions in the Taiwan Strait and warned of “serious consequences” if the United States mishandled the situation. “The United States should and should take full responsibility for this,” she said.
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said Tuesday at a meeting in Shanghai that US politicians who are “playing with fire” on the Taiwan issue “will not come to a good end,” according to a foreign ministry text.
Earlier, the White House, without confirming Pelosi’s visit, warned Beijing against using it as a pretext for escalation, and criticized China for exaggerating its response to an earlier visit. Pelosi will be the first female speaker of the House to travel to Taiwan since Representative Newt Gingrich (R-Ge) in 1997.
“China appears to be preparing to take further steps in the coming days and possibly over a longer time horizon,” White House spokesman John Kirby told reporters on Monday. “Nothing in this potential visit – which, by the way, has a precedent – is going to change the status quo,” he added.
Despite its concerns that Pelosi’s trip would lead to a crisis in the Taiwan Strait, the White House sought to avoid any impression that the president was pressuring Pelosi. Kirby stressed that if she did visit the island, it did not reflect any change in the US approach to China or Taiwan.
“Nothing has changed – nothing has changed – about our Taiwan policy,” Kirby said. As for Beijing, he added, “What we hope they can infer from everything we’ve done, everything we’ve said, including during the president’s phone call, is that we agree.”
But Pelosi’s visit is taking on new significance at a time when relations between the United States and China have reached new lows and Taiwan’s diplomatic profile has risen in recent years.
“Pelosi’s visit now has a completely different meaning,” said Zhou Shulong, a professor of political science and international relations at Tsinghua University in Beijing, referring to Pelosi’s trip to Gingrich’s visit. “China is concerned that if the trip takes place, it will strengthen US-Taiwan relations and encourage US allies to strengthen ties with Taiwan.”
The high-risk situation poses a test for Xi, who faces a balanced measure of responding aggressively but in a way that does not lead to all-out conflict as he prepares for a crucial leadership meeting in the fall.
“Xi must show determination. He must support China’s red lines and prevent further drift toward an unacceptable outcome: US support for Taiwan independence,” said Bonnie Glaser, director of the Asia Program at the German Marshall Fund.
Kirby warned that China could fire missiles into the Taiwan Strait or near Taiwan or send military aircraft across the center line. In the last Taiwan Strait crisis in 1995-1996, China launched missiles that landed near Taiwan.
Other potential retaliatory measures include more frequent and larger-scale military exercises near Taiwan, as well as intensified gray-zone tactics — coercive measures that do not amount to direct conflict. China on Monday banned food shipments from more than 100 Taiwanese exporters.
Chinese leaders may also be constrained by the state slowing economyThe deterioration of relations with the United States and other Western countries, and international criticism of China’s relations with Russia after Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.
said Amanda Hsiao, senior China analyst at International Crisis Group.
Pelosi began her trip to Asia on Sunday and did not include Taiwan in her official itinerary. Beijing has repeatedly warned that it will respond to what it sees as interference in an internal matter.
Joanne O, a spokeswoman for Taiwan’s foreign ministry, said at a press briefing on Tuesday that the ministry had no information on Pelosi’s visit, but the House speaker would be welcome.
“Our government always welcomes international friends to visit Taiwan, enhance their understanding of Taiwan and show their support,” she said.
Regardless of the rising tensions over Pelosi’s expected visit, some say Taiwan has benefited from the attention.
“Taiwan will be the big winner. When will Taiwan become a major focus of US politics and the midterm elections?” said Fan Shih-ping, a professor with the Graduate Institute of Political Science at National Taiwan Normal University. “The Taiwan issue has become completely international, and this is the last thing China and Xi Jinping want to see.”
Pelosi, 82, who has served in Congress since 1987, has been a vocal critic of China’s human rights record and has spoken out about her support for demonstrations in Hong Kong against Beijing’s crackdown on the city.
said Lam Wing Kee, a former Hong Kong bookseller who has been detained in China and is now living in Taipei.
Lam said he was invited to attend Wednesday’s event with the American Institute in Taiwan, the de facto US embassy, but was not told if Pelosi would be there. “This will be a show of support for the resistance of the Hong Kong people,” he said of the spokesperson’s looming visit.
In Taipei, some prepared to protest Pelosi’s arrival by pretending outside what they thought would be her hotel. Meanwhile, others planned to welcome the Speaker Free fried chickena popular snack in Taiwanese street.
“Until facing threats from the Chinese Communist Party [Chinese Communist Party]Jerry Liu, New Power’s director of international affairs, said Pelosi continues to demonstrate her strong will to protect the universal values of democracy and human rights, which I deeply value and appreciate.
“Tonight we call democracy fried chicken,” he said of his plan to distribute 100 portions. “By enjoying it, we excel at fighting the threats of the Chinese Communist Party.”
Vic Chiang and Pei-Lin Wu in Taipei and Lyric Lee in Seoul contributed to this report.
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