TAIPEI – China reacted angrily to the highest-level US visit to Taiwan in 25 years, during which House Speaker Nancy Pelosi praised the self-ruled island as “one of the freest societies in the world” and pledged American solidarity.
Beijing expressed its displeasure with Pelosi’s presence on an island it claims is part of China by increasing military activity in surrounding waters, summoning the US ambassador in Beijing, and suspending several agricultural imports from Taiwan.
According to Taiwan’s defence ministry, some of China’s planned military exercises will take place within Taiwan’s 12 nautical mile sea and air territory, an unprecedented move that a senior defence official described to reporters as “amounting to a sea and air blockade of Taiwan.”
Pelosi arrived with a congressional delegation late Tuesday after her visit to ASEAN countries including Malaysia and Indonesia, defying China’s repeated warnings and demonstrating the United States’ unwavering commitment to Taiwan’s democracy.
“Our delegation came to Taiwan to make unequivocally clear that we will not abandon Taiwan,” Pelosi told Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen.
“Now, more than ever, America’s solidarity with Taiwan is crucial, and that’s the message we are bringing here, today.”
Addressing parliament, Pelosi said new U.S. legislation aimed at strengthening the American chip industry to compete with China “offers greater opportunity for U.S.-Taiwan economic cooperation.”
“We thank you for your leadership. We want the world to recognise that,” Pelosi told Tsai, who Beijing suspects of pushing for formal independence – a red line for China.
A long-time China critic, especially on human rights, Pelosi was set to meet later on Wednesday with a former Tiananmen activist, a Hong Kong bookseller who had been detained by China and a Taiwanese activist recently released by China, people familiar with the matter said.
The last U.S. house speaker to go to Taiwan was Newt Gingrich, in 1997. But Pelosi’s visit comes amid sharply deteriorating Sino-U.S. relations, and China has emerged as a far more powerful economic, military and geopolitical force during the past quarter century.
China considers Taiwan part of its territory and has never renounced using force to bring it under its control. The United States warned China against using the visit as a pretext for military action against Taiwan.
In retaliation, China’s customs department announced a suspension of imports of citrus fruits, chilled white striped hairtail and frozen horse mackerel from Taiwan, while its commerce ministry banned export of natural sand to Taiwan. – Reuters