Pelosi’s stop in Taipei is the first time a US House speaker has visited Taiwan in 25 years. His trip comes at a low point in US-China relations and despite warnings from the Biden administration against a stopover in Taiwan.
Pelosi and the accompanying congressional delegation said in a statement Tuesday that the visit “honors America’s unwavering commitment to supporting Taiwan’s vibrant democracy.”
“Our discussions with Taiwanese leaders will focus on reaffirming our support for our partner and promoting our common interests, including promoting a free and open Indo-Pacific region,” the statement said. “America’s solidarity with Taiwan’s 23 million people is more important now than ever, as the world faces a choice between autocracy and democracy.”
China responded by announcing military exercises and with belligerent rhetoric warning that the speaker’s visit “has a serious impact on the political foundations of China-US relations and seriously undermines China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. China”.
“This seriously undermines peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait and sends a seriously wrong signal to separatist forces for ‘Taiwan independence,'” the Chinese Foreign Ministry said in a statement. “China firmly opposes and strongly condemns it, and has made a serious demarche and strong protest to the United States.”
China’s military said it was on “high alert” and would conduct exercises around Taiwan in response to Pelosi’s trip, saying in statements it was launching a series of “military operations targeted to counter the situation”.
Taiwan’s Ministry of National Defense said 21 Chinese fighter jets made incursions into its Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) on Tuesday. In response, the Taiwanese military issued radio warnings and deployed air defense missile systems to monitor activities, he added.
China frequently sends fighter jets into Taiwan’s self-proclaimed ADIZ. The highest number of incursions ever recorded took place on October 4 last year, when 56 military aircraft flew over the region on the same day. An ADIZ is unilaterally imposed and separate from sovereign airspace, which is defined under international law as extending 12 nautical miles from a territory’s coastline.
Pelosi will meet the Taiwanese president on Wednesday
The Speaker of the House is expected to visit Taiwan’s presidential office and parliament on Wednesday morning (local time), a senior Taiwanese official told CNN. She will visit parliament first before heading to the presidential office for a meeting with Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen, the official said.
Pelosi is expected to leave Taiwan later Wednesday, according to a press release issued by the Foreign Ministry. The official was not authorized to speak about Pelosi’s travel plans which have not been made public.
Pelosi is traveling with House Foreign Affairs Speaker Gregory Meeks of New York, Veterans Affairs Chairman Mark Takano of California, and Representatives Suzan DelBene of Washington State, Raja Krishnamoorthi of Illinois and Andy Kim of New Jersey.
The American Institute of Taiwan said Pelosi’s delegation will meet with senior Taiwanese leaders “to discuss US-Taiwanese relations, peace and security, economic growth and trade, the Covid-19 pandemic , the climate crisis, human rights, democratic governance and other important issues of common concern.”
Pelosi’s stop in Taiwan was not on the itinerary for his congressional visit to Asia, but the stop had been discussed for weeks before his trip. The potential shutdown prompted warnings from China as well as the Biden administration, which informed the speaker of the risks of visiting the democratic and self-governing island, which China claims as part of its territory.
The White House said Tuesday that Pelosi’s trip was consistent with US Taiwan policy and that the United States would closely monitor China’s actions after Pelosi’s departure.
“Obviously we will be watching this closely. There is no reason for this visit to become a triggering event for a crisis or a conflict or an excuse that the Chinese might try to stir up for some kind of military action,” National Security Council Coordinator for Strategic Communications John Kirby said Tuesday on CNN “This Time With Kate Bolduan.”
“Of course, that concerns us, which is why an integral part of his trip is to reaffirm the United States’ commitment under the Taiwan Relations Act to assist Taiwan in its self-defense,” Kirby added. “Again, there’s no reason for this to escalate into conflict. There’s no change in our policy. It’s completely consistent with that. And we’ll just watch how things unfold. .”
A group of more than two dozen Senate Republicans, including Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell, released a statement supporting Pelosi’s congressional delegation, which was all Democrats, landing in Taiwan.
“We support Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi’s trip to Taiwan,” the Republicans said. “For decades, members of the United States Congress, including former Speakers of the House, have traveled to Taiwan. This trip is consistent with the United States’ one-China policy to which we adhere. We are also committed now, more than ever, to all elements of the Taiwan Relations Act.”
McConnell welcomed Pelosi’s arrival in Taiwan, saying Tuesday he thought “she had every right to leave.”
“It was improper and counterproductive for President Biden and his aides to publicly seek to dissuade her from doing so,” the Kentucky Republican said. “I welcome the speaker’s support for Taiwanese democracy, but hope that she will return from Asia more aware of the military dimensions of the Chinese threat and more committed to working with Republicans to address the evolving the balance of military power in the region.”
US President Joe Biden said publicly before Pelosi’s trip that the US military didn’t think it was the right time for Pelosi to go to Taiwan, but refrained from directly telling her not to go. go, two sources previously told CNN.
Biden did not speak to Pelosi before his trip, Kirby said Tuesday.
The Taiwan issue remains one of the most contentious in US-China relations. Biden and his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, discussed it at length during a phone call last week that lasted more than two hours.
Administration officials fear Pelosi’s trip comes at a particularly tense time, as Xi is set to seek an unprecedented third term at the upcoming Chinese Communist Party congress. Chinese party officials are expected to start laying the groundwork for this conference in the coming weeks, pressuring Beijing leaders to show some strength.
Although Biden has not endorsed Pelosi’s visit, U.S. officials believe Chinese leaders may be confusing the House speaker’s trip with an official administration visit, and they fear China is not separating Biden’s Pelosi, a lot, if at all, since both are Democrats.
Pelosi has long been a China hawk in Congress. She has already met with pro-democracy dissidents and the Dalai Lama, the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader who remains a thorn in the side of the Chinese government. She also helped display a black-and-white banner in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square two years after the 1989 massacre, and in recent years has voiced support for pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong.
This story has been updated with additional developments.
CNN’s Kylie Atwood, Alex Rogers and Kevin Liptak contributed to this report.