Pelosi Meets Taiwan President: Latest News

Credit…Ann Wang/Reuters

Speaker Nancy Pelosi met with Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen on Wednesday morning with a scheduled series of high-profile meetings that set the stage for further tensions with China.

After meeting with lawmakers, Ms. Pelosi met with Ms. Tsai at the presidential office in downtown Taipei. Assuming the secret prior to the visit, the meeting between the two was broadcast live.

“Today the world faces a choice between democracy and autocracy,” said Ms Pelosi. “America’s determination to preserve democracy here in Taiwan and around the world remains rock solid.”

In what is probably considered an insult in China, Ms. Pelosi expects to hold talks with a number of human rights leaders on Wednesday afternoon before she leaves.

The entire journey takes place against the backdrop of increasingly fierce warnings from China, which claims Taiwan as its territory. It strongly condemned the speaker’s visit and responded with plans for military exercises near Taiwan.

Although the planning of the trip was shrouded in secrecy, her time in Taiwan thus far has been characterized by more of a carnival atmosphere. She arrived to a live video feed, illuminated greetings on Taipei’s tallest building and groups of supporters and protesters outside her hotel.

The mood continued Wednesday morning when Mrs. Pelosi arrived at the Taiwan legislature with a police escort to meet with a handful of top Taiwanese lawmakers. On one side of the building, a support group held up banners to welcome her. On the other hand, a group of pro-Chinese protesters held up placards calling her an “arsonist” and accusing her of meddling in China’s internal affairs.

The response from China was severe. Shortly after her plane landed in Taipei, the capital, Chinese diplomats said the visit “seriously undermines China’s sovereignty and relations between China and the US”. The Chinese Communist Party’s Taiwan Affairs Office said any attempt to gain independence by Taiwan would be “crushed by the mighty force of the Chinese people.”

Beijing quickly imposed a series of punitive economic measures, including suspending natural sand exports to Taiwan.

And the Chinese military announced live fire drills in areas that appear to violate Taiwan’s territorial waters, with a state news agency warning ships and planes for “security reasons”.

The allegations and military stance threatened to further heighten tensions between the United States and China over Taiwan, a self-governed island democracy. In particular, the exercises, which would hinder Taiwan’s definition of its own territorial waters, triggered a new phase of acumen, comparable to a crisis in 1995 and 1996, when Taiwan held its first democratic elections.

While on the island, Ms. Pelosi will also attend a banquet at Taipei Guest House, a historic government building used for diplomatic receptions, and visit the National Human Rights Museum, which contains documents on Taiwan’s history as a democracy.

During the morning meeting with Taiwanese lawmakers, Ms. Pelosi praised Taiwan’s track record in dealing with Covid-19, human rights and climate issues, according to Lo Chih-cheng, a Democratic Progressive Party lawmaker who attended the meeting.

“Given China’s threats and warnings, her visit shows that the United States will not bow to China’s intimidation and has decided to support Taiwan,” he said. “She decided to stand behind democracy’s allies.”

Some in Taiwan said they were concerned about what China might do after Ms. Pelosi left. The announced military exercises would largely take place from Thursday to Sunday.

While analysts said the exercises appeared to be a signaling exercise to project strength at home and abroad, they warned that a chance encounter could spiral out of control in the rapidly changing situation. The military exercises could temporarily block access to some commercial shipping routes and Taiwanese ports, analysts said.

It is also unclear how the US military would respond to the tests. During the crisis 26 years ago, the United States sailed an aircraft carrier group through the Taiwan Strait. In recent months, China has issued stern statements that it controls the waters, some of the busiest shipping lanes in the world, and created a potential deadlock if the United States were to pass warships through them.

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