China has furiously condemned the highest-level US visit to Taiwan in 25 years as House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi hailed the self-ruled island as “one of the freest societies in the world” and pledged American solidarity.
Beijing has demonstrated its anger with Pelosi’s presence on an island that it says is part of China with a burst of military activity in surrounding waters, summoning the US ambassador in Beijing and halting several agricultural imports from Taiwan.
According to Taiwan’s defence ministry, one of China’s planned military exercises will take place within Taiwan’s 12 nautical mile sea and air territory – an unprecedented move a senior defence official described to reporters as “amounting to a sea and air blockade of Taiwan.”
Pelosi arrived with a congressional delegation on an unannounced visit late on Tuesday, defying China’s repeated warnings, in what she said shows unwavering US commitment to Taiwan’s democracy.
“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 US legislation aimed at strengthening the American chip industry to compete with China “offers greater opportunity for US-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.
The last US house speaker to go to Taiwan was Newt Gingrich, in 1997.
But Pelosi’s visit comes amid sharply deteriorating Sino-US 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 has warned China against using the visit as a pretext for military action against Taiwan.
In retaliation, China’s customs department announced a suspension of various imports from Taiwan, while its commerce ministry banned the export of natural sand to the island. (RFI)