With Pelosi visiting, Taiwan braces for Chinese display of power

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TAIPEI, Taiwan — The Chinese and Taiwanese military sent fighter jets, ordered military exercises and bolstered combat readiness as Taiwan prepared to receive house speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) for a visit that escalated grave warnings from the Chinese leadership and sharply tensions between Beijing and Washington.

Pelosi is expected to arrive in Taiwan local time on Tuesday evening, according to a person familiar with the arrangements for the visit. Taiwanese media reported that Pelosi was expected to meet with President Tsai Ing-wen and lawmakers on Wednesday.

The upcoming visit sparked outrage from China, which has spent years trying to diplomatically isolate Taiwan and sees such exchanges with foreign dignitaries as support for the island’s formal independence. The Chinese Communist Party claims to have never ruled Taiwan, a self-governing democracy, as its territory despite never having ruled it. Chinese leader Xi Jinping has pledged to “reunite” Taiwan with China by force if necessary.

White House Warns China Not to Overreact to Pelosi’s Expected Visit to Taiwan

Taiwan’s official central news agency reported that the island’s armed forces had strengthened their preparations Tuesday morning and said they would remain “enhanced” preparedness until Thursday afternoon.

Chinese maritime authorities this week announced additional military exercises in the South China Sea and live fire drills in the Bohai Sea, near the Korean peninsula. Reuters, citing an unnamed source, reported that Chinese fighter jets flew close to the centerline of the Taiwan Strait, the unofficial military border, on Tuesday. Chinese carrier Xiamen Airlines, meanwhile, announced disruptions to at least 30 flights due to air traffic restrictions in Fujian, China’s province directly across the Taiwan Strait.

China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Hua Chunying accused the United States of escalating tensions in the Taiwan Strait on Tuesday and warned of “disastrous consequences” if the United States mishandled the situation. “The United States must and must take full responsibility for this,” she said.

Earlier, without confirming Pelosi’s trip, the White House warned Pelosi not to use it as a pretext for escalation and criticized China for overreacting to a precedent-setting visit. Pelosi would be the first House speaker to travel to Taiwan since Rep. Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) in 1997.

But Pelosi’s visit takes on new meaning at a time when US-China ties have reached new lows and Taiwan’s diplomatic profile has risen in recent years.

“Pelosi’s visit has a very different meaning now,” said Chu Shulong, a professor of political science and international relations at Tsinghua University, comparing Pelosi’s trip to Gingrich’s visit. “China is wary that if the trip takes place, it will further strengthen US-Taiwan relations and encourage US allies to strengthen ties with Taiwan.”

The high-stakes situation poses a test for Xi, who faces a balancing act by responding vigorously, but in a way that does not spark all-out conflict, as he prepares for a pivotal leadership meeting in the fall.

“Xi must show determination. He must reinforce China’s red lines and prevent it from drifting further towards an unacceptable outcome: US support for Taiwan’s independence,” said Bonnie Glaser, Asia Program Director at the German Marshall Fund.

White House spokesman John Kirby warned that China could fire missiles into the Taiwan Strait or near Taiwan or send military fighter jets across the centerline. During the last crisis in the Taiwan Strait in 1995-1996, China sent missiles that landed near Taiwan.

Other likely retaliatory measures include more frequent and large-scale military exercises closer to Taiwan, as well as ramping up gray zone tactics — coercive measures that stop an outright conflict. China banned food shipments from more than 100 Taiwanese exporters on Monday.

Chinese leaders may also be constrained by the country’s slowing economy, deteriorating relations with the United States and other Western countries, and international criticism of ties with Russia following Moscow’s invasion of Moscow.

“We must keep in mind that Beijing does not want a military conflict with the US to break out, so it is likely to refrain from responding that could lead to an unintended military escalation,” said Amanda Hsiao, senior China analyst at the International crisis group.

Pelosi started her trip to Asia on Sunday and did not include Taiwan in her official itinerary. Beijing has repeatedly warned that it would retaliate for what it sees as meddling in an internal affair.

Government fears Pelosi trip to Taiwan could lead to strait crisis

China’s UN ambassador, Zhang Jun, spoke at a news conference Monday, calling the visit “dangerous and provocative”.

Joanne Ou, spokesperson for Taiwan’s Foreign
ministry, said in a briefing Tuesday that the ministry had no information about Pelosi’s visit, but the House speaker would be welcome.

“Our government always welcomes the international friends to visit Taiwan, increase their understanding of Taiwan and show their support,” she said.

Despite mounting tensions over Pelosi’s expected visit, some say Taiwan has benefited from the attention.

“Taiwan will be the biggest winner. When did Taiwan become a major focus of US politics and midterm elections?” said Fan Shih-ping, a professor at the Graduate Institute of Political Science at National Taiwan Normal University. “The Taiwanese issue has been fully internationalized, and that is the last thing China and Xi Jinping want to see.”

A longtime critic of China’s human rights record, Pelosi has spoken out in support of Hong Kong protesters protesting Beijing’s crackdown on the city. Reuters reported that Pelosi would meet with a group of human rights activists in Taiwan.

“She knows what happened in Hong Kong, and she knows that many Hong Kong protesters fleeing the Communist Party will come to Taiwan,” said Lam Wing-kee, a former Hong Kong bookseller detained in China and is now held. living in Taipei.

Lam said he was invited to an event with the American Institute in Taiwan on Wednesday, the de facto US embassy, ​​but was not told if Pelosi would be there. “This would be a show of support for the resistance of the Hong Kong people,” he said of the speaker’s impending visit.

In Taipei, some are preparing to protest Pelosi’s arrival by demonstrating outside what they believe will be her hotel. Others, meanwhile, planned to welcome the Speaker of the House by handing out free fried chicken, a popular Taiwanese street snack.

“Even when faced with threats from the CCP, Pelosi continues to demonstrate her strong will to protect the universal values ​​of democracy and human rights, which I deeply value and admire,” said Jerry Liu, New Power Party’s director of international affairs. .

“Tonight we call it fried chicken of democracy,” he said of his plan to hand out 100 portions. “Enjoying it sets us apart in the fight against the threats of the CCP.”

Vic Chiang and Pei-Lin Wu in Taipei and Lyric Li in Seoul contributed to this report.

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