Pelosi makes historic visit to Taiwan and escalates tensions with China

WASHINGTON — House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., who is leading an official congressional delegation to Asia this week, paid an unannounced visit to Taiwan Tuesday, a move that escalated tensions between Beijing and Washington.

Pelosi is the senior US official to visit Taiwan since then House Speaker Newt Gingrich went there in 1997. She visited the island in 1999, but she wasn’t in the lead then. Legislators from both sides of the aisle (and Gingrich) had asked Pelosi to go on the trip despite warnings from China about “serious consequences”.

China immediately condemned Pelosi’s Tuesday visit, vowing that “those who play with fire will perish from it,” and later this week announced new military drills around Taiwan, including live fire drills. The visit constitutes a “grave violation” that “seriously violates China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity,” China’s foreign ministry said in a statement Tuesday after arriving in Taipei.

“These moves, like playing with fire, are extremely dangerous. Whoever plays with fire will perish.” The Global Times, a state-controlled newspaper, reported that the Chinese military would conduct “major military drills and training activities, including live fire drills,” in six regions around the island of Taiwan from Thursday to Sunday.

Beijing also said it had lodged a “strong protest” with the United States.

The official blue and white government plane with the inscription “United States of America” landed in the capital Taipei at around 10:45 p.m. local time. Pelosi and members of her delegation disembarked the plane, walked down the stairs to the tarmac, where they were greeted by Taiwanese officials.

“Our congressional delegation’s visit to Taiwan recognizes America’s unwavering commitment to supporting Taiwan’s vibrant democracy,” said Pelosi and members of her delegation said in a joint statement after landing.

“Our discussions with the Taiwanese leadership will focus on reaffirming our support for our partner and advancing our common interests, including promoting a free and open Indo-Pacific region,” the statement continued. “America’s solidarity with the 23 million people of Taiwan is more important now than ever as the world faces a choice between autocracy and democracy.”

Pelosi’s office had refused for days to confirm plans for international travel, citing safety protocols. The White House had not confirmed the trip either.

Pelosi and the other lawmakers also made it clear that their visit was one of many trips by congressional delegations to Taiwan and “in no way contradicts” longstanding U.S. policy guided by the Taiwan Relations Act of 1979, U.S.-China Joint Communiqués and the six assurances.

“The United States continues to resist unilateral efforts to change the status quo,” lawmakers said.

The five House members traveling with Pelosi are Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Gregory Meeks, DN.Y.; Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman Mark Takano, D-Calif., who led his own delegation to Taiwan last year; Rep. Suzan DelBene, D-Wash., a leading voice on trade issues; Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi, D-Ill., a member of the Intelligence Committee; and Rep. Andy Kim, DN.J., a former national security official in the Obama administration.

The visit comes amid growing concerns in Washington as strained US-China relations over the future of the self-governing democracy that Beijing claims as its territory.

The trip came up last week during a phone call between President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping. Biden had said earlier last month that US military officials thought it was “not a good idea” for Pelosi to visit Taiwan, but the White House retracted those warnings as her trip drew near.

On Monday, National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said Pelosi’s possible visit was “consistent with long-standing US policy” and urged China not to turn into “some kind of crisis or use it as a pretext for aggressive military… Activities in or around the US to step up cross-straits.”

During an interview with ABC’s Good Morning America on Tuesday, National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said, “If China tries to turn a potential Speaker’s visit into a crisis, or tries to use it as an excuse to take aggressive action against Taiwan , that’s on her.”

“The United States does not seek escalation, but of course we reserve the right to ensure that we defend our interests and we will remain vigilant about what China will do in the hours and days ahead,” he added.

Zoe Richards reported from New York, Scott Wong reported from Washington, DC and Max Burman reported from London. Pelosi makes historic visit to Taiwan and escalates tensions with China

Fry Electronics Team

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