TAIPEI, Aug. 3 (Reuters) – China furiously condemned US visit to Taiwan at the highest level in 25 years, when House Speaker Nancy Pelosi hailed the self-ruled island as “one of the freest societies in the world” and promised American solidarity.
Beijing expressed its anger at Pelosi’s presence on an island it claims is part of China with a burst of military activity in surrounding waters, summoning the US ambassador to Beijing and halting several agricultural imports from Taiwan.
Some of China’s planned military exercises will take place within Taiwan’s 12-nautical-mile sea and air area, according to Taiwan’s Defense Ministry, an unprecedented move that a senior defense official described to reporters as “representing a naval and air blockade of Taiwan”.
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Pelosi arrived late Tuesday with a congressional delegation for an unannounced visit, defying repeated warnings from China.
“Our delegation came to Taiwan to make it unequivocally clear that we will not abandon Taiwan,” Pelosi told Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen. read more
“Now, more than ever, America’s solidarity with Taiwan is crucial, and that is the message we bring here today.”
In a speech to parliament, Pelosi said new US legislation aimed at strengthening the US chip industry to compete with China “provides greater opportunities for US-Taiwan economic cooperation”.
“We thank you for your leadership. We want the world to recognize that,” Pelosi told Tsai, whom Beijing suspects is pushing for formal independence – a red line for China.
Pelosi, a longtime China critic especially on human rights issues, is said to meet later on Wednesday with a former Tiananmen activist, a Hong Kong bookseller detained by China and a Taiwanese activist recently released by China. people familiar with the matter said.
The last US house speaker to go to Taiwan was Newt Gingrich, in 1997. But Pelosi’s visit comes amid sharply deteriorating Sino-US relations, and China has emerged over the past quarter of a century as a far more powerful economic, military and geopolitical power.
China considers Taiwan part of its territory and has never renounced the use of force to bring it under its control. The United States warned China not to use the visit as a pretext for military action against Taiwan.
In retaliation, Chinese customs announced a suspension of imports of citrus fruits, chilled white-striped scabbard tail and frozen horse mackerel from Taiwan, while the Commerce Ministry banned the export of natural sands to Taiwan.
Pelosi’s visit, which was beamed in official Chinese news outlets, was the dominant topic on China’s heavily censored social media, with many users urging Beijing to invade the island in retaliation and expressing their dismay that no military action had been taken to to block her arrival. A live tracker of her plane on WeChat in China was viewed by 22 million people.
China’s Twitter-like Weibo platform crashed just before Pelosi’s landing, blaming Weibo for overloaded broadband capacity, without mentioning Taiwan.
Shortly after Pelosi’s arrival, the Chinese military announced joint air and sea exercises near Taiwan and test launches of conventional missiles in the sea east of the island, with Chinese state news agency Xinhua conducting live fire drills and other exercises from Thursday to Sunday. around Taiwan.
China’s Foreign Ministry said Pelosi’s visit seriously damages peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait, “seriously impacts the political foundation of China-US relations and seriously infringes on sovereignty and territorial integrity of China.”
Before Pelosi’s arrival, Chinese warplanes buzzed along the line dividing the Taiwan Strait. The Chinese military said it was on high alert and will launch “targeted military operations” in response to Pelosi’s visit.
White House national security spokesman John Kirby said on Tuesday after Pelosi’s arrival that the United States “will not be intimidated” by China’s threats or bellicose rhetoric and that there is no reason her visit should trigger a crisis or conflict.
Kirby said China could engage in “economic coercion” against Taiwan, adding that the impact on US-China relations in the coming days and weeks will depend on Beijing’s actions.
The United States does not have official diplomatic relations with Taiwan, but is required by US law to provide Taiwan with the means to defend itself. China sees visits by US officials to Taiwan as an encouraging signal to the pro-independence camp on the island. Taiwan rejects China’s sovereignty claims, saying that only the Taiwanese people can decide the island’s future.
Taiwan’s cabinet said on Wednesday that the military has increased its alert level. The island’s defense ministry said 21 Chinese planes entered its air defense identification zone on Tuesday and that China attempted to threaten key ports and cities with exercises in surrounding waters.
“The so-called drilling areas fall within the busiest international channels in the Indo-Pacific region,” a senior Taiwanese official familiar with his security planning told Reuters on Wednesday.
“We see China’s ambition: to make the Taiwan Strait non-international waters and to make the entire area west of the first island chain in the western Pacific Ocean its sphere of influence,” the person said.
(This story corrects the spelling of Tiananmen in the 12th paragraph; this error also appeared earlier in the series)
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Reporting by Yimou Lee and Sarah Wu; Writing by Tony Munroe; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore and Stephen Coates
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