U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi left Taiwan after a visit that heightened tensions with China, saying Wednesday that she and other members of Congress in her delegation showed they will not abandon their commitment to the self-governing island.
U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi left Taiwan after a visit that heightened tensions with China, saying Wednesday that she and other members of Congress in her delegation showed they will not abandon their commitment to the self-governing island, AP reports.
Pelosi, the first U.S. speaker to visit the island in more than 25 years, courted Beijing’s wrath with the visit and set off more than a week of debate over whether it was a good idea after news of it leaked. In Taipei she remained calm but defiant.
“Today the world faces a choice between democracy and autocracy,” she said in a short speech during a meeting with Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen. “America’s determination to preserve democracy, here in Taiwan and around the world, remains ironclad.”
Pelosi arrived at a military base in South Korea on Wednesday evening ahead of meetings with political leaders in Seoul, after which she will visit Japan. Both countries are U.S. alliance partners, together hosting about 80,000 American personnel as a bulwark against North Korea’s nuclear ambitions and China’s increased assertiveness in the South China and East China seas.
China, which claims Taiwan as its territory and opposes any engagement by Taiwanese officials with foreign governments, announced multiple military exercises around the island, parts of which will enter Taiwanese waters, and issued a series of harsh statements after the delegation touched down Tuesday night in the Taiwanese capital, Taipei.
Taiwan decried the planned actions, saying they violated the island’s sovereignty.
“Such an act equals to sealing off Taiwan by air and sea, such an act covers our country’s territory and territorial waters, and severely violates our country’s territorial sovereignty,” Capt. Jian-chang Yu said at a briefing by the National Defense Ministry.
The Chinese military exercises, including live fire, are to start Thursday and be the largest aimed at Taiwan since 1995, when China fired missiles in a large-scale exercise to show its displeasure at a visit by then-Taiwanese President Lee Teng-hui to the U.S.
Taiwanese President Tsai responded firmly Wednesday to Beijing’s military intimidation.
“Facing deliberately heightened military threats, Taiwan will not back down,” Tsai said at her meeting with Pelosi. “We will firmly uphold our nation’s sovereignty and continue to hold the line of defense for democracy.”
In Washington, John Kirby, spokesperson for the National Security Council, said Wednesday that the United States was anticipating more military drills and other actions from China in coming days as the country’s armed forces “flex their muscles.”
Still, “we don’t believe we’re at the brink now, and there’s certainly no reason for anybody to be talking about being at the brink going forward,” Kirby said on ABC’s “Good Morning America.”
China’s official Xinhua News Agency announced the military actions Tuesday night, along with a map outlining six different areas around Taiwan. Arthur Zhin-Sheng Wang, a defense studies expert at Taiwan’s Central Police University, said three of the areas infringe on Taiwanese waters, meaning they are within 12 nautical miles (22 kilometers) of shore.
Using live fire in a country’s territorial airspace or waters is risky, said Wang, adding that “according to international rules of engagement, this can possibly be seen as an act of war.”
Pelosi’s trip has heightened U.S.-China tensions more than visits by other members of Congress because of her high-level position as leader of the House of Representatives. She is the first speaker of the House to visit Taiwan in 25 years, since Newt Gingrich in 1997. However, other members of Congress have visited Taiwan in the past year.
Tsai, thanking Pelosi for her decades of support for Taiwan, presented the speaker with a civilian honor, the Order of the Propitious Clouds.
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