US House Speaker Pelosi lands in Taiwan, China vows 'targeted military actions'
TAIPEI/BEIJING - US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi arrived in Taipei on Tuesday night (Aug 2), angering China into threatening "targeted military actions" in response to her visit.
“The Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) 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,” army spokesman Wu Qian said in a statement.
Military drills including “long-range live firing in the Taiwan Strait” are being planned from Tuesday evening, the PLA's Eastern Theater Command said. China will also hold military drills from Aug 4 to 7 in six areas around Taiwan, the Xinhua News Agency reported.
Mrs Pelosi is the highest-ranking US politician to visit the island in 25 years.
In a statement released by her office shortly after her touchdown, Mrs Pelosi said the visit honours the United States' unwavering commitment to supporting Taiwan’s democracy, and "in no way contradicts longstanding US policy".
Beijing, which regards Taiwan as a renegade province that will be retaken by force if necessary, views Mrs Pelosi's visit as sending an encouraging signal to the pro-independence camp on the self-ruling island. It has not ruled out a military response.
In a stinging statement on Tuesday night, the Chinese Foreign Ministry accused Washington of attempting to use Taiwan to contain China.
"It constantly distorts, obscures and hollows out the one-China principle, steps up its official exchanges with Taiwan, and emboldens 'Taiwan independence' separatist activities," it said, warning that "those who play with fire will perish by it".
Beijing, it said, will take all necessary measures to resolutely safeguard its sovereignty and territorial integrity in response to the US Speaker’s visit.
"All the consequences arising therefrom must be borne by the US side and the 'Taiwan independence' separatist forces," it added.
The US Navy reportedly deployed four warships in waters east of Taiwan in what it called "routine" deployments.
Meanwhile Taiwan's presidential office claimed that it was hit by a barrage of cyberattacks in the evening.
Earlier in the day, foreign ministry spokesman Hua Chunying told a regular press briefing: "If the US misjudges or handles the situation across the Taiwan Strait incorrectly, it will have catastrophic consequences for the security, prosperity and order of the Taiwan region and the world at large."
Mrs Pelosi arrived at Taipei's Songshan Airport on Tuesday night, after her US airforce SPAR19 flight left the Malaysian capital Kuala Lumpur and took a longer route, flying south-east towards Borneo before circling up north towards the direction of Taiwan, according to flight-tracking website Flightradar24.
It appeared to be avoiding flying over the South China Sea where the Chinese army has held various exercises, including live fire drills, since last week.
Ordinarily, a flight between Kuala Lumpur and Taipei takes about five hours. The detour added about two more hours.
Mrs Pelosi was in Kuala Lumpur as part of an Asian tour that had also taken her to Singapore.
Media reports said Mrs Pelosi would visit Taiwan's Legislative Yuan, or the Parliament, and meet President Tsai Ing-wen on Wednesday, which was not officially on her agenda.
"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," Mrs Pelosi said in her statement.
She added that her visit is one of several Congressional delegations to Taiwan and that the US "continues to oppose unilateral efforts to change the status quo".
Taiwan's presidential office said the island hopes to deepen its partnership with the US and maintain peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific region.