Pelosi lauds Taiwan, says China's fury cannot stop visits by world leaders

She left Taiwan after pledging solidarity and hailing its democracy, leaving a trail of Chinese anger over her brief visit to the self-ruled island

Yimou Lee and Sarah WuReuters
Published : 3 August 2022, 04:11 AM
Updated : 3 August 2022, 10:52 AM

US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi left Taiwan on Wednesday after touting its democracy and pledging American solidarity during her brief visit, adding that Chinese anger cannot stop world leaders from travelling to the self-ruled island claimed by Beijing.

China demonstrated its outrage over the highest-level US visit to the island in 25 years with a burst of military activity in surrounding waters, summoning the US ambassador in Beijing and halting several agricultural imports from Taiwan.

Some of China's planned military exercises were to take place within Taiwan's 12 nautical mile sea and air territory, according to Taiwan's defence ministry, an unprecedented move that a senior defence official described to reporters as "amounting to a sea and air blockade of Taiwan".

Taiwan scrambled jets on Wednesday to warn away 27 Chinese aircraft in its air defence zone, the island's defence ministry said, adding that 22 of them crossed the median line separating the island from China.

Pelosi arrived with a congressional delegation on her unannounced but closely watched visit late on Tuesday, defying China's repeated warnings, in a trip that she said demonstrated unwavering US commitment to Taiwan's democracy.

"Our delegation came to Taiwan to make unequivocally clear that we will not abandon Taiwan," Pelosi told Taiwan's President Tsai Ing-wen, who Beijing suspects of pushing for formal independence - a red line for China.

"Now, more than ever, America's solidarity with Taiwan is crucial, and that's the message we are bringing here today," Pelosi said during her roughly 19-hour visit.

A long-time China critic, especially on human rights, Pelosi met with a former Tiananmen activist, a Hong Kong bookseller who had been detained by China and a Taiwanese activist recently released by China.

The last US House speaker to go to Taiwan was Newt Gingrich in 1997. Pelosi's visit comes amid sharply deteriorating Sino-US relations. During the past quarter century, China has become a far more powerful economic, military and geopolitical force.

China considers Taiwan part of its territory and has never renounced using force to bring it under its control. The United States warned China against using the visit as a pretext for military action against Taiwan.

"Sadly, Taiwan has been prevented from participating in global meetings, most recently the World Health Organization, because of objections by the Chinese Communist Party," Pelosi said in a statement issued after her departure.

"While they may prevent Taiwan from sending its leaders to global forums, they cannot prevent world leaders or anyone from travelling to Taiwan to pay respect to its flourishing democracy, to highlight its many successes and to reaffirm our commitment to continued collaboration," Pelosi added.

Toufique Imrose Khalidi
Editor-in-Chief and Publisher