Pelosi says US will not abandon Taiwan as China plans military drills

Pelosi’s visit – the first by an American speaker in 25 years – was foreseen for days. As the California Democrat left the island for South Korea on Wednesday afternoon, there were already signs of tension his visit to Taipei had put on Washington’s ties with Beijing – which warned that his visit would be “political”. The foundation will have a serious impact on “China-US relations.”

China’s ruling Communist Party of China sees Taiwan as part of its territory, although it has never been controlled and has long vowed to “reunify” the island with the Chinese mainland, if necessary. So by force.

Pelosi’s praise of the island’s commitment to democracy was a significant display of support for Taipei, hours after China’s threat to retaliate over its presence was compared to a “marine and air blockade” by Taiwan’s defense ministry. .

Beijing has repeatedly warned that there will be dire consequences if the visit goes ahead – even prompting US President Joe Biden to warn that those who play with fire will be “perished” by it.

But Beijing’s warnings – and even a suggestion by Biden himself that the US military thought the trip was “not a good idea” – prevented 82-year-old Pelosi from flying to the island with a congressional delegation on Tuesday evening. stopped and met his chief officers.

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

“Now more than ever, America’s solidarity with Taiwan is important and that’s the message we’re bringing here today.”

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China’s response

Pelosi arrived in Taipei to a largely warm reception with the city’s tallest building, Taipei 101, lighting up a welcome message and with supporters outside her hotel – though her visit to the legislature on Wednesday drew a smattering of protesters. attracted. The video showed some people shouting, “Pelosi, get out” and holding placards that read, “Taiwan does not want war.”

President Tsai thanked Pelosi for visiting, praised her longstanding commitment to democracy and human rights, and honored her with Taiwan’s highest civilian honour.

Within minutes of Pelosi’s arrival in Taipei, Beijing said it would immediately launch “a series of joint military operations around the island”, including using long-range ammunition in the Taiwan Strait that would keep the island as the mainland. The land separates it from China.

China to hold live ammunition military drills around Taiwan as Pelosi visits

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

on Tuesday, According to Taiwan’s Defense Ministry, 21 Chinese warplanes infiltrated Taiwan’s air defense detection area. The ministry said the infiltration was carried out 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 aerial early warning and control aircraft. ,

On Wednesday, as Pelosi met with Taiwanese leaders, elbowing elbows and posing for photographs, China suspended imports of citrus fruits and some fish products from Taiwan, as well as sanding the island. Exports also stopped.

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Chinese Customs claimed that the suspension of imports of citrus fruits was a result of “pest control” and “excessive pesticide residues” and cited “Covid prevention” for the suspension on imports of seafood. However, its past restrictions on some Taiwanese products often coincided with periods of rising tension.

‘Taiwan will not back down’

Like Pelosi, President Tsai was not impressed by China’s warnings.

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

“We will firmly uphold the sovereignty of our country and continue to be the line of defense for democracy. At the same time, we look forward to cooperating and working with all democracies around the world to jointly defend democratic values.”

Taiwan will “do whatever it takes” to strengthen its defensive capabilities, Tsai said, adding that she is committed to “maintaining peace and stability” in the Taiwan Straits and making Taiwan an “important stabilizing force” for regional security and development. has vowed. Global business.

Pelosi told reporters on Wednesday that “the US stands with Taiwan” and that China will not “stand in the way” of people arriving on the island.

“We have to show the world, and this is one of the purposes of our journey, to show the world the success of the Taiwanese people,” she said. “We want Taiwan to always have freedom with safety and we are not going back.”

He too Hailed Taiwan as “one of the most independent societies in the world”.

Pelosi and the US congressional delegation also met Taiwanese lawmakers and met Taiwan’s Deputy Speaker Tsai Chi-chang ahead of the in-camera meeting.

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Pelosi is a longtime critic of the Chinese Communist Party. She has denounced Beijing’s human rights record, and called on pro-democracy dissidents and the Dalai Lama – the Tibetan spiritual leader in exile who remains a thorn in the side of the Chinese government.

In 1991, Pelosi raised a banner in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square in memory of the victims of the 1989 massacre of pro-democracy protesters. Most recently, she has lent support to the 2019 pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong.

On Wednesday, Pelosi and the congressional delegation departed from the self-governing island at 6 p.m. (local) departing from Songshan Airport in Taiwan.

This story has been updated with additional development.

CNN’s Yong Jeong, Gladys Liu, Akanksha Sharma, Hannah Ritchie, Alex Stambaugh and Mayumi Maruyama contributed reporting