By HUIZHONG WU
TAIPEI, Taiwan (AP) — U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi left Taiwan after a visit that heightened tensions with China, saying Wednesday that she and other members of Congress in her delegation showed that they would not abandon their commitment to the self-governing island.
Pelosi, the first American speaker to visit the island in more than 25 years, courted Beijing’s ire with the visit and sparked more than a week of debate over whether it was a good idea after the news leak. In Taipei, she remained calm but defiant.
“Today the world faces a choice between democracy and autocracy,” she said in a brief speech during a meeting with Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen. “America’s resolve to preserve democracy, here in Taiwan and around the world, remains steadfast.”
China, which claims Taiwan as its territory and opposes any engagement by Taiwanese officials with foreign governments, has announced several military exercises around the island, parts of which will enter Taiwanese waters, and issued a series of harsh statements after the delegation landed Tuesday evening in the Taiwanese capital, Taipei.
Taiwan has denounced the planned actions, saying they violated the island’s sovereignty.
“Such an act amounts to sealing off Taiwan by air and sea, such an act covers our country’s territory and territorial waters and seriously violates our country’s territorial sovereignty,” Captain Jian-chang Yu said during a briefing. briefing from the Department of National Defence.
Chinese military drills, including live fire, are due to start on Thursday and will be the biggest targeting Taiwan since 1995, when China fired missiles in a large-scale exercise to show its displeasure during a visit by the president. Taiwanese at the time, Lee Teng-hui, in the United States
Taiwanese President Tsai responded strongly to Beijing’s military intimidation on Wednesday.
“In the face of deliberately increased military threats, Taiwan will not back down,” Tsai said during his meeting with Pelosi. “We will firmly uphold our nation’s sovereignty and continue to uphold the line of defense of democracy.”
China’s official Xinhua news agency reported the military actions on Tuesday evening, along with a map depicting six different areas around Taiwan. Arthur Zhin-Sheng Wang, an expert in defense studies at the Central Taiwan Police University, said three of the areas encroach on Taiwanese waters, meaning they are within 12 nautical miles (22 kilometers). ) from the shore.
Using live fire in a country’s airspace or territorial waters is risky, Wang said, adding that “according to international rules of engagement, it may possibly be considered an act of war.”
Pelosi’s trip heightened US-China tensions more than visits by other members of Congress because of his high-profile position as leader of the House of Representatives. She is the first House Speaker to visit Taiwan in 25 years, since Newt Gingrich in 1997. However, other members of Congress have visited Taiwan in the past year.
Tsai, thanking Pelosi for his decades of support for Taiwan, presented the speaker with a civilian honor, the Order of Auspicious Clouds.
China’s response has been vocal and manifested on several fronts: diplomatic, economic and military.
Shortly after Pelosi landed on Tuesday night, China announced live-fire drills that would have started that night, as well as four-day drills starting Thursday.
The People’s Liberation Army Air Force also flew a contingent of 21 warplanes Tuesday night, including fighter jets, to Taiwan. Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Xie Feng also summoned US Ambassador to Beijing Nicholas Burns to convey the country’s protests the same evening.
On Wednesday, China also banned some imports from Taiwan, including citrus fruits and fish.
China’s state broadcaster CCTV released images and videos of PLA exercises on Wednesday, though it was unclear where they took place.
Pelosi responded to threats from Beijing on Wednesday morning, saying she hoped it was clear that although China has blocked Taiwan from attending some international meetings, “that they understand they will not stand in the way of people who come to Taiwan as a sign of friendship and support”.
She noted that support for Taiwan is bipartisan in Congress and praised the island’s democracy. She refrained from saying that the United States would defend Taiwan militarily, stressing that Congress is “committed to Taiwan’s security, so that Taiwan can defend itself as effectively as possible.”
Her goal has always been the same, she said, dating back to her 1991 visit to Beijing’s Tiananmen Square, when she and other lawmakers unfurled a small banner supporting democracy two years after a military crackdown. bloody against the demonstrators in the square. That visit also focused on human rights and what she called dangerous transfers of technology to “rogue countries.”
Pelosi visited a human rights museum in Taipei that details the island’s martial law-era history and met some of Taiwan’s most prominent rights activists, including an exiled former bookseller from Hong Kong held by Chinese authorities, Lam Wing-kee.
Pelosi, who is leading the trip with five other members of Congress, also met with representatives of the Taiwanese legislature.
“Madam President’s visit to Taiwan with the delegation, without fear, is the strongest defense of respect for human rights and consolidation of the values of democracy and freedom,” said Tsai Chi-chang, Vice President of the Legislative Assembly of Taiwan.
US President Joe Biden’s administration has sought to tone down the volume of the visit, insisting there is no change to the longstanding US “one China policy” which recognizes Beijing but allows informal relations and defense links with Taipei.
Pelosi said his delegation had “weight,” including Gregory Meeks, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and Raja Krishnamoorthi of the House Intelligence Committee. Representatives Andy Kim and Mark Takano are also part of the delegation.
She also mentioned Rep. Suzan DelBene, who Pelosi says was instrumental in passing a $280 billion bill to boost U.S. manufacturing and research into semiconductor chips. – an industry that Taiwan dominates and which is vital to modern electronics.
She left Wednesday evening for South Korea, the next leg of an Asia tour that also included Singapore, Malaysia and Japan.