Senior US official Pelosi visits Taiwan

Published by Scott Challinor on August 2nd 2022, 4:00pm

Speaker of the US House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, is visiting the island of Taiwan despite threats of retaliation from nearby China.

Pelosi’s visit is the first by a senior US official in 25 years, following Newt Gingrich’s trip to the island when he was House of Representatives speaker in 1997.

Pelosi, a longstanding critic of China's leadership, is reported to be meeting with Taiwanese president Tsai Ing-wen during her trip, before visiting the island’s parliament buildings and a local human rights museum later.

However, reaction from China and Russia toward the visit has been incendiary, with both calling it a “destabilising” move and the former labelling it "extremely dangerous".

The US is a key ally to the self-governing island of Taiwan, which China views as a breakaway province that it claims sovereignty over and insists it has a right to take by force if required.

US president Joe Biden has previously indicated that the US would directly intervene to defend the island in the event of any Chinese incursion.

Prior to Pelosi's visit, Chinese president Xi Jingping warned Biden that “whoever plays with fire will perish by it”, while China’s foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian threatened “serious consequences” should the trip go ahead.

China’s heavily censored social media platforms have also been bubbling over with nationalist rhetoric since news of Pelosi’s visit emerged, with many users calling for military action against Taiwan.

In the hours ahead of Pelosi’s anticipated arrival, China sent fighter jets to the median line in the Taiwan Strait, which marks the border between the Chinese mainland and Taiwanese territory. The move was not an unusual one, with Chinese aircraft having crossed the line into the Taiwanese air defence zone as recently as Monday.

After Pelosi touched down, she tweeted that her visit was entirely consistent with US policy on Taiwan and that the West would continue to stand up for democracy.

She wrote: “Our delegation’s visit to Taiwan honors America’s unwavering commitment to supporting Taiwan’s vibrant democracy.

“Our discussions with Taiwan leadership reaffirm our support for our partner & promote our shared interests, including advancing a free & open Indo-Pacific region.

“America’s solidarity with the 23 million people of Taiwan is more important today than ever, as the world faces a choice between autocracy and democracy.

“The United States continues to oppose unilateral efforts to change the status quo."

Pelosi has also written in the Washington Post that: "in the face of the Chinese Communist Party's accelerating aggression, our (the US') congressional delegation's visit should be seen as an unequivocal statement that America stands with Taiwan, our democratic partner, as it defends itself and its freedom."

The White House has said that it expects "military provocations" to be made by China in the wake of Pelosi's arrival, which could include missiles being fired near to the island.

The Biden administration has not supported Pelosi's mission to Taiwan, with the president highlighting that the US military had already concluded such a move to be "not a good idea".

Beijing has said that "targeted military exercises" will be conducted in response to Pelosi's presence. 

Photo by US Department of Labor on Wikimedia Commons

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Scott Challinor
Business Editor
August 2nd 2022, 4:00pm

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