TAIPEI (Reuters) – China has strongly condemned the high-profile US visit to Taiwan 25 years ago, with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi praising the autonomous island as “one of the freest societies in the world” and pledging American solidarity. .
Beijing has shown its anger over Pelosi’s presence on an island it says is part of China with a flurry of military activity in the surrounding waters, summoning the US ambassador in Beijing and halting several agricultural imports from Taiwan.
Some of China’s planned military exercises will take place within 12 nautical miles of Taiwan’s sea and air territory, according to the Taiwan Ministry of Defense, an unprecedented move that a senior defense official described to reporters as “amounting to a sea and air blockade of Taiwan.”
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Pelosi arrived with a congressional delegation on an unannounced visit late on Tuesday in defiance of repeated warnings from China in what she said showed the United States’ unwavering commitment to democracy in Taiwan.
“Our delegation came to Taiwan to make it unequivocally clear that we will not abandon Taiwan,” Pelosi told Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen. read more
“Now, more than ever, America’s solidarity with Taiwan is critical, and that is the message we carry here, today.”
In her speech to Parliament, Pelosi said the new US legislation to boost the US chip industry to compete with China “provides a greater opportunity for economic cooperation between the United States and Taiwan.”
“Thank you for your leadership. We want the world to realize that,” Pelosi told Tsai, who Beijing suspects of pushing for formal independence — a red line for China.
Pelosi has long been a critic of China, especially on human rights, and is scheduled to meet later on Wednesday with a former Tiananmen Square activist, a Hong Kong bookseller detained by China and a Taiwanese activist recently released by China, who are people familiar with the matter. He said.
Newt Gingrich was the last speaker of the US House of Representatives to go to Taiwan in 1997. But Pelosi’s visit comes amid a sharp deterioration in Sino-US relations, and China has emerged as a much stronger economic, military, and geopolitical power over the past quarter century.
China considers Taiwan part of its territory and has never given up the use of force to bring it under its control. The United States has warned China not to use the visit as a pretext for military action against Taiwan.
In response, the Chinese Customs Administration announced the suspension of imports of citrus fruits, chilled whitetail and frozen mackerel from Taiwan, while the Chinese Ministry of Commerce banned the export of natural sand to Taiwan.
Pelosi’s visit, which has been critical of official Chinese media, has been the dominant topic on China’s heavily censored social media, with many users urging Beijing to invade the island in response and expressing dissatisfaction with the lack of military action to block its access. 22 million people watched a live track of her plane on the Chinese website WeChat.
China’s Twitter-like platform Weibo crashed just before Pelosi’s landing, which Weibo blamed on excessive broadband capacity, without mentioning Taiwan.
Shortly after Pelosi’s arrival, the Chinese military announced joint air and naval exercises near Taiwan and a conventional missile test launch in the sea east of the island, with the official Xinhua News Agency describing live-fire exercises and other exercises around Taiwan from Thursday to Sunday.
The Chinese Foreign Ministry said Pelosi’s visit seriously harms peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait, “has a serious impact on the political foundation of Sino-US relations, and seriously violates China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.”
Before Pelosi’s arrival, Chinese warplanes flew over the line dividing the Taiwan Strait. The Chinese military said it was on high alert and would launch “targeted military operations” in response to Pelosi’s visit.
White House national security spokesman John Kirby said Tuesday after Pelosi’s arrival that the United States would “not be intimidated” by China’s threats or aggressive rhetoric, and that there was no reason for her visit to trigger a crisis or conflict.
Kirby said China may exercise “economic coercion” toward Taiwan, adding that the impact on US-China relations will depend on Beijing’s actions in the coming days and weeks.
The United States does not have formal diplomatic relations with Taiwan but is obligated under US law to provide it with the means to defend itself. China views US officials’ visits to Taiwan as an encouraging sign for the island’s pro-independence camp. Taiwan rejects China’s claims to sovereignty, saying only the Taiwanese people can decide the island’s future.
Taiwan’s cabinet said on Wednesday that the military has raised its level of vigilance. The island’s defense ministry said 21 Chinese planes entered its air defense identification zone on Tuesday, and that China was trying to threaten major ports and cities by conducting exercises in the surrounding waters.
“The so-called exercise areas are among the busiest international channels in the Indo-Pacific region,” a senior Taiwanese official familiar with security planning told Reuters on Wednesday.
“We can see China’s ambition: to make the waters of the Taiwan Strait non-international, as well as to make the entire region west of the first island chain in the western Pacific its sphere of influence,” the person said.
(This story corrects the spelling of Tiananmen in the 12th paragraph; this error also occurred earlier in the series)
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(Additional reporting by Yimo Lee and Sarah Wu.) Written by Tony Munro. Editing by Simon Cameron Moore and Stephen Coates
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