Over 20 China Military Planes in Taiwan Airspace as Nancy Pelosi Visits: Report
The last time such a high-ranking US official visited Taiwan was in 1997 with then-House Speaker Newt Gingrich.
US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi landed in Taiwan late on Tuesday, 2 August. According to media reports, she is slated to meet Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen on Wednesday, 3 August. Shortly after, AFP cited Taipei as saying that 20 Chinese military planes had entered Taiwan's airspace on the day of her arrival.
Upon landing, Pelosi released a statement asserting that the congressional delegation's "visit to Taiwan honors America's unwavering commitment to supporting Taiwan’s vibrant democracy."
"Our discussions with Taiwan leadership will focus on reaffirming our support for our partner and on promoting our shared interests, including advancing a free and open Indo-Pacific region. America’s solidarity with the 23 million people of Taiwan is more important today than ever, as the world faces a choice between autocracy and democracy," the statement added.
Additionally, in an opinion article for The Washington Post published on 2 August, around the same time she landed, Pelosi wrote:
"In the face of the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) accelerating aggression, our congressional delegation’s visit should be seen as an unequivocal statement that America stands with Taiwan, our democratic partner, as it defends itself and its freedom."Nancy Pelosi, The Washington Post
"We must stand by Taiwan, which is an island of resilience. Taiwan is a leader in governance: currently, in addressing the covid-19 pandemic and championing environmental conservation and climate action. It is a leader in peace, security and economic dynamism: with an entrepreneurial spirit, culture of innovation and technological prowess that are envies of the world."Nancy Pelosi, The Washington Post
'Serious Violation': China Slams Pelosi's Visit
In response, China slammed the "extremely dangerous" actions of the US in Taiwan, according to AFP. Further Chinese Defence Ministry spokesperson Wu Qian was quoted by the news agency as saying:
"The Chinese People's Liberation Army is on high alert and will launch a series of targeted military operations to counter this, resolutely defend national sovereignty and territorial integrity, and resolutely thwart external interference and 'Taiwan independence' separatist attempts."
The country further said that Pelosi's visit was a "serious violation" of the one-China principle and the provisions of the three joint communiques signed between Beijing and Washington.
"The Taiwan question is the most important and most sensitive issue at the very heart of China-US relations. The Taiwan strait is facing a new round of tensions and severe challenges, and the fundamental cause is the repeated moves by the Taiwan authorities and the United States to change the status quo," the ministry stated.
China and US Flex Military Might
On the same day, four US warships were deployed towards the east of the island. The US has said that these are "routine" deployments.
China has also sent warplanes up to the informal line that divides the Taiwan Strait between Mainland China and Taiwan. Live drills have also been held by the People's Liberation Army.
Its forces have also been holding live fire drills, and the PLA also posted a video stating that it is "fully prepared for any eventuality."
Beijing has been warning Washington for more than a week that it would be responsible for the tensions that Pelosi's visit causes.
"The US side will bear the responsibility and pay the price for undermining China's sovereign security interests," said Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying on Tuesday.
President Xi Jinping also told Joe Biden during a phone call last week that "whoever plays with fire will get burnt."
On the other hand, Taiwan's Defense Ministry has said that it is keeping track of the Chinese military's activities and was determined to defend itself against the PLA.
The website of Taiwan's presidential office did, however, have to endure an overseas cyber attack on Tuesday morning, Reuters reported. After a bit of malfunctioning, the website was brought back online.
The Chinese government, since the establishment of the People's Republic of China in 1949, has considered Taiwan as a breakaway province.
President Xi Jinping has clearly said that Taiwan "must and will be" reunited with China, according to two separate BBC reports.
China has always considered Taiwan to be historically part of itself. Therefore, if the third-highest office-bearing member of the US visits Taiwan, the Chinese see it as a trip to their land without seeking their permission. You can read about the tensions in detail here.
The only US president to ever visit Taiwan was Dwight Eisenhower in 1960.
The last time such a high-ranking US official visited Taiwan was in 1997, the then House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who recently wrote that Pelosi's visit "would be a powerful signal to Chinese Communist Party (CCP) General Secretary Xi Jinping that he should drop any plans to invade or intimidate Taiwan."
How Does Pelosi See China?
With contempt. And this has been the case for more than three decades now.
In 1991, two years after the Tiananmen Square Massacre, she visited the site and displayed a banner in memory of the pro-democracy protesters gunned down by the Chinese military.
More than a decade later, she tried to send four letters to the then Chinese Vice President Hu Jintao in 2002, calling for the release of activists in China and Tibet, the BBC reported.
She has also opposed the Chinese government's bids to host the Olympics Games due to alleged human rights abuses, once even unsuccessfully urging President George W Bush to boycott the opening ceremony of the 2008 Summer Olympics hosted by China.
Even this year, she called for a diplomatic boycott of the 2022 Winter Olympics, held in Beijing, to protest the alleged human rights abuses of Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang.
"For heads of state to go to China in light of a genocide that is ongoing - while you're sitting there in your seat – really begs the question, what moral authority do you have to speak again about human rights in any place in the world?" Pelosi had said.
(With inputs from Reuters, the Taiwan Times, the BBC, and AFP.)
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