Pelosi says US ‘will not abandon Taiwan’ as China plans military exercises

Pelosi’s journey — the first by a seated American speaker in 25 years — had been foreshadowed for days. When the California Democrat left the island for South Korea on Wednesday afternoon, there were already signs of the tensions her visit to Taipei had placed on Washington’s relationship with Beijing — who warned her trip would have “serious impact on political affairs.” basis of China-US relations.”

China’s ruling Chinese Communist Party considers Taiwan part of its territory, despite never having controlled it, and has long vowed to “reunite” the island with mainland China, by force if necessary.

Pelosi’s praise for the island’s commitment to democracy was a major show of support for Taipei just hours after China threatened to retaliate for its presence with a series of military exercises that Taiwan’s defense ministry compared to a “maritime and air blockade” .

Beijing had repeatedly warned of dire consequences if the trip went ahead — going so far as to warn US President Joe Biden that those who played with fire would “perish” from it.

But Beijing’s warnings — and even a suggestion from Biden himself that the US military thought the trip “wasn’t a good idea” — didn’t stop Pelosi, 82, from flying into the island with a congressional delegation on Tuesday evening and meeting its leading officials. .

“We are proud of our lasting friendship,” said Pelosi, who spoke with Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen at the presidential office in Taipei the morning after her arrival.

“More than ever, America’s solidarity with Taiwan is crucial and that is the message we bring here today.”

Response from China

Pelosi was largely warmly received in Taipei, with the city’s tallest building, Taipei 101, lit up with a welcome message and supporters gathered outside her hotel – although her visit to the legislature on Wednesday drew a few protesters. The video shows some people yelling, “Pelosi, get out” and placards reading “Taiwan doesn’t want war.”

President Tsai thanked Pelosi for her visit, praised her long-standing commitment to democracy and human rights and awarded Taiwan the highest civilian honor.

Beijing, within minutes of Pelosi’s arrival in Taipei, said it would immediately begin “a series of joint military operations around the island,” including the use of long-range live ammunition in the Taiwan Strait separating the island from mainland China. China.

China holds live ammunition military exercises around Taiwan as Pelosi visits

Taiwan’s Defense Ministry described the military exercises as “irrational” and equivalent to a “blockade”. It said the planned exercises would violate Taiwan’s territorial waters, “threaten an international waterway, challenge international order, undermine the status quo of the strait and endanger regional security”.

On Tuesday, According to the Taiwan Ministry of Defense, 21 Chinese warplanes have raided the Taiwan Air Defense Identification Zone. The raids were made by 10 J-16 fighter jets, eight J-11 fighter jets, one Y-9 electronic warfare aircraft, one Y-8 electronic intelligence aircraft and one KJ-500 early warning and control aircraft, it said. ministry. .

On Wednesday, when Pelosi met with Taiwan’s leaders, bumping and posing for photos, China suspended imports of citrus fruits and some seafood products from Taiwan, as well as exports of sand to the island.

Chinese customs claimed that the suspension of citrus imports was due to “pest control” and “excessive pesticide residues”, calling “Covid prevention” for the suspension of seafood imports. However, the previous bans on some Taiwanese products often coincided with periods of mounting tensions.

‘Taiwan won’t back down’

President Tsai, like Pelosi, seemed unmoved by China’s warnings.

“Faced with deliberately heightened military threats, Taiwan will not back down,” Tsai said during a televised meeting with Pelosi.

“We will vigorously uphold our nation’s sovereignty and continue to defend the line of defense for democracy. At the same time, we want to cooperate and work in unity with all democracies around the world to collectively protect democratic values.”

Taiwan would “do whatever it takes” to bolster its defensive capabilities, Tsai added. world Trade.

Pelosi told reporters on Wednesday that “America stands behind Taiwan” and that China “will not stand in the way” of people coming to visit the island.

“We have to show the world, and that is one of the goals of our trip, to show the world the success of the Taiwanese people,” she said. “We want Taiwan to always have freedom and security and we are not afraid to do that.”

They also praised Taiwan as “one of the freest societies in the world.”

Pelosi and the US congressional delegation also met with Taiwanese lawmakers and exchanged pleasantries with Taiwan’s Vice-Chairman Tsai Chi-chang before a closed-door meeting.

Pelosi has been a longtime critic of the Chinese Communist Party. She has denounced the human rights situation in Beijing and has 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.

In 1991, Pelosi unfurled a banner in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square to commemorate the victims of the 1989 massacre of pro-democracy protesters. More recently, she has expressed support for the 2019 pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong.

On Wednesday, Pelosi and the congressional delegation left the self-governed island around 6:00 PM (local), departing from Taiwan’s Songshan Airport

This story has been updated with additional developments.

CNN’s Yong Xiong, Gladys Liu, Akanksha Sharma, Hannah Ritchie, Alex Stambaugh and Mayumi Maruyama reported

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