US Speaker Pelosi arrives in Taiwan, raising China tensions

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US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi arrived in Taiwan on Tuesday night, becoming the highest-ranking American official to visit the self-ruled island that is claimed by China in 25 years.

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Pelosi’s visit has triggered increased tensions between China and the United States. China claims Taiwan as part of its territory, to be annexed by force if necessary, and views visits by foreign government officials as recognition of the island’s sovereignty.

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China had warned of “resolute and strong measures” if Pelosi went ahead with the trip. The Biden administration did not explicitly urge her to call it off, while seeking to assure Beijing it would not signal any change in US policy on Taiwan.

A plane carrying Pelosi and her delegation left Malaysia on Tuesday after a brief stop that included a working lunch with Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob. Local media in Taiwan reported that Pelosi would arrive on Tuesday night. The United Daily News, Liberty Times and China Times — Taiwan’s three largest national newspapers — cited unidentified sources as saying she would spend the night in Taiwan.

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Taiwan’s Foreign Ministry declined to comment. Premier Su Tseng-chang didn’t explicitly confirm Pelosi’s visit, but said Tuesday that “any foreign guests and friendly lawmakers” are “very much welcome.”

Barricades were erected outside the Grand Hyatt Hotel in Taipei where Pelosi was expected to stay amid heightened security. Two buildings in the capital lit up LED displays with words of welcome, including the iconic Taipei 101 building, which said “Welcome to Taiwan, Speaker Pelosi.”

China, which regards Taiwan as a renegade province to be annexed by force if necessary, has repeatedly warned of retaliation if Pelosi visits, saying its military will “never sit idly by.”

“The US and Taiwan have colluded to make provocations first, and China has only been compelled to act out of self-defense,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying told reporters Tuesday in Beijing.

Shortly before Pelosi was due to arrive, Chinese state media said Chinese SU-35 fighter jets were “crossing” the Taiwan Strait, the body of water that separates mainland China and Taiwan. It wasn’t immediately clear where they were headed or what they planned to do.

Unspecified hackers launched a cyberattack on the Taiwanese Presidential Office’s website, making it temporarily unavailable Tuesday evening. The Presidential Office said the website was restored shortly after the attack, which overwhelmed it with traffic.

“China thinks by launching a multi-domain pressure campaign against Taiwan, the people of Taiwan will be intimidated. But they are wrong,” Wang Ting-yu, a legislator with the Democratic Progressive Party, said on Twitter in response to the attack.

China’s military threats have driven concerns of a new crisis in the 100-mile (140-kilometer) -wide Taiwan Strait that could roil global markets and supply chains.
The White House on Monday declared Beijing’s rhetoric, saying the US has no interest in deepening tensions with China and “will not take the bait or engage in saber rattling.”

White House National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby underscored that the decision whether to visit Taiwan was ultimately Pelosi’s. He noted that members of Congress have routinely visited the island over the years.

Taiwan and China split in 1949 after the Communists won a civil war on the mainland. The US maintains informal relations and defense ties with Taiwan even as it recognizes Beijing as the government of China.

Beijing sees official American contact with Taiwan as encouragement to make the island’s decades-old de facto independence permanent, a step US leaders say they don’t support. Pelosi, head of one of three branches of the US government, is the highest-ranking elected American official to visit Taiwan since then-Speaker Newt Gingrich in 1997.

Pelosi has used her position in the US Congress as an emissary for the US on the global stage. She has long challenged China on human rights, including in 2009 when she hand-delivered a letter to then-President Hu Jintao calling for the release of political prisoners. She had sought to visit Taiwan’s island democracy earlier this year before testing positive for COVID-19.

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Credit: www.marketwatch.com /

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