TAIPEI, Aug 3 (Reuters) – China has furiously condemned the highest-level U.S. visit to Taiwan in 25 years as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi hailed the self-governing island as “one of the freest societies in the world” and pledged American solidarity. .
Beijing has shown its anger over Pelosi’s presence on an island it says is part of China with an explosion of military activity in surrounding waters, summoning the US ambassador to Beijing and halting several agricultural imports from from Taiwan.
Some of China’s planned military drills will take place within Taiwan’s 12-nautical-mile sea and air territory, according to Taiwan’s Defense Ministry, an unprecedented move that a senior defense official described to reporters as ” amounting to a sea and air blockade of Taiwan”.
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Pelosi arrived Tuesday night with a congressional delegation for an unannounced visit, defying repeated warnings from China, which she says shows the United States’ unwavering commitment to Taiwanese democracy.
“Our delegation has come to Taiwan to say unequivocally that we will not abandon Taiwan,” Pelosi told Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen.
“Now, more than ever, America’s solidarity with Taiwan is crucial, and that is the message we bring here today.”
Addressing parliament, Pelosi said new US legislation aimed at strengthening the US chip industry to compete with China “provides greater opportunity for US-Taiwanese economic cooperation”.
“We thank you for your leadership. We want the world to recognize that,” Pelosi told Tsai, whom Beijing suspects of pushing for formal independence – a red line for China.
A longtime critic of China, including on human rights, Pelosi was due to meet later Wednesday with a former Tiananmen activist, a bookseller from Hong Kong who had been detained by China and a Taiwanese activist recently released by the China, people familiar with the matter. said.
The last US speaker to visit Taiwan was Newt Gingrich, in 1997. But Pelosi’s visit comes amid a sharp deterioration in US-China relations, and China has emerged as a much more powerful economic, military and geopolitical force. over the last quarter century.
China considers Taiwan to be part of its territory and has never renounced the use of 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 imports of citrus fruit, chilled white striped hairtail and frozen horse mackerel from Taiwan, while its Ministry of Commerce banned the export of natural sand to Taiwan.
Pelosi’s visit, which was lambasted in Chinese state media, was the dominant topic on China’s heavily censored social media, with many users urging Beijing to invade the island in retaliation and expressing dismay that the military action was not taken to block his arrival. A live tracking of his plane on WeChat in China was watched by 22 million people.
China’s Twitter-like platform Weibo crashed just before Pelosi landed, which Weibo blamed on overloaded broadband capacity, not to mention Taiwan.
Shortly after Pelosi’s arrival, the Chinese military announced joint air and sea exercises near Taiwan and test launches of conventional missiles in the sea east of the island, the agency said. Chinese state press Xinhua reporting on live-fire and other drills around Taiwan from Thursday to Sunday.
China’s Foreign Ministry said Pelosi’s visit seriously undermines peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait, “has a serious impact on the political foundations of China-US relations, and seriously undermines the sovereignty and territorial integrity of China”.
Prior to Pelosi’s arrival, Chinese warplanes flew over the line dividing the Taiwan Strait. China’s military said it was on high alert and would launch “targeted military operations” in response to Pelosi’s visit.
White House national security spokesman John Kirby said on Tuesday after Pelosi’s arrival that the United States “will not be intimidated” by threats or belligerent rhetoric from China and that it there is no reason for his visit to precipitate a crisis or a conflict.
Kirby said China could engage in “economic coercion” on Taiwan, adding that the impact on US-China relations will depend on Beijing’s actions in the days and weeks to come.
The United States does not have formal diplomatic relations with Taiwan but is required by US law to provide it with the means to defend itself. China sees visits by US officials to Taiwan as an encouraging signal for the island’s pro-independence camp. Taiwan rejects China’s sovereignty claims, saying only the Taiwanese people can decide the future of the island.
Taiwan’s cabinet said on Wednesday that the military had increased its level of vigilance. The island’s defense ministry said 21 Chinese planes entered its air defense identification zone on Tuesday and China was trying to threaten key ports and towns with drills in the surrounding waters.
“The so-called drilling areas are among the busiest international channels in the Indo-Pacific region,” a senior Taiwan official familiar with its security planning told Reuters on Wednesday.
“We can see China’s ambition to make the Taiwan Strait non-international waters, as well as the entire area west of the first western Pacific island chain as its sphere of influence,” he said. said the person.
(This story corrects the spelling of Tiananmen in the 12th paragraph; this error also occurred earlier in the series)
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Reporting by Yimou Lee and Sarah Wu; Written by Tony Munroe; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore and Stephen Coates
Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.
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