The impending visit has drawn anger from China, which for years has sought to isolate Taiwan diplomatically and sees such exchanges with foreign dignitaries as support for the island’s formal independence. The Chinese Communist Party claims Taiwan, a democratic and self-governing country, as its territory even though it has never ruled it. Chinese leader Xi Jinping has vowed to “reunify” Taiwan with China by force if necessary.
Taiwan’s official Central News Agency reported that the island’s military forces beefed up their preparations on Tuesday morning and said they would remain in an “enhanced” state of readiness until midday Thursday.
Meanwhile, Chinese naval authorities announced additional military exercises in the South China Sea and live-fire exercises in the Bohai Sea, near the Korean Peninsula, this week. Reuters, citing an unnamed source, reported that Chinese combat aircraft flew on Tuesday near the middle line of the Taiwan Strait, the unofficial military border. Meanwhile, China’s Xiamen Airlines announced that at least 30 flights were disrupted due to air traffic restrictions in China’s Fujian Province directly across the strait from Taiwan.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying blamed the United States on Tuesday for escalating tensions in the Taiwan Strait and warned of “serious consequences” if the United States mishandled the situation. “The United States should and should take full responsibility for this,” she said.
Earlier, the White House, without confirming Pelosi’s visit, warned Beijing against using it as a pretext for escalation, and criticized China for exaggerating its response to an earlier visit. Pelosi will be the first female speaker of the House to travel to Taiwan since Representative Newt Gingrich (R-Ge) in 1997.
But Pelosi’s visit is taking on new significance at a time when relations between the United States and China have reached new lows and Taiwan’s diplomatic profile has risen in recent years.
“Pelosi’s visit now has a completely different meaning,” said Zhou Shulong, a professor of political science and international relations at Tsinghua University, who compared Pelosi’s trip to Gingrich’s visit. “China is concerned that if the trip takes place, it will strengthen US-Taiwan relations and encourage US allies to strengthen ties with Taiwan.”
The high-risk situation poses a test for Xi, who faces a balanced measure of responding aggressively but in a way that does not lead to all-out conflict as he prepares for a crucial leadership meeting in the fall.
“Xi must show determination. He must support China’s red lines and prevent further drift toward an unacceptable outcome: US support for Taiwan independence,” said Bonnie Glaser, director of the Asia Program at the German Marshall Fund.
White House spokesman John Kirby warned that China could fire missiles into the Taiwan Strait or close to Taiwan or send military aircraft through the center line. In the last Taiwan Strait crisis in 1995-1996, China sent missiles that landed near Taiwan.
Other potential retaliatory measures include more frequent and larger-scale military exercises near Taiwan, as well as intensified gray-zone tactics — coercive measures that do not amount to direct conflict. China on Monday banned food shipments from more than 100 Taiwanese exporters.
Chinese leaders may also be constrained by the state slowing economyThe deterioration of relations with the United States and other Western countries, and international criticism of its relations with Russia after Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.
said Amanda Hsiao, senior China analyst at International Crisis Group.
Pelosi began her trip to Asia on Sunday and did not include Taiwan in her official itinerary. Beijing has repeatedly warned that it will respond to what it sees as interference in an internal matter.
At a press conference on Monday, China’s ambassador to the United Nations, Zhang Jun, called the visit “dangerous and provocative.”
Joanne Ou, spokeswoman for the Taiwanese Foreign Ministry
The department said in a news briefing on Tuesday that the department had no information on Pelosi’s visit but that the House Speaker would be welcome.
“Our government always welcomes international friends who visit Taiwan, enhance their understanding of Taiwan, and show their support,” she said.
Regardless of the rising tensions over Pelosi’s expected visit, some say Taiwan has benefited from the attention.
“Taiwan will be the big winner. When will Taiwan become a major focus of US politics and the midterm elections?” said Fan Shih-ping, a professor with the Graduate Institute of Political Science at National Taiwan Normal University. “The Taiwan issue has become completely international, and this is the last thing that China and Xi Jinping want to see.”
Pelosi has long been a vocal critic of China’s human rights record and has spoken of her support for Hong Kong protesters protesting Beijing’s crackdown on the city. Reuters reported that Pelosi will meet with a group of human lefts activists in Taiwan.
said Lam Wing Kee, a former Hong Kong bookseller who was arrested in China and is now living in Taipei.
Lam said he had been invited to Wednesday’s event with the American Institute in Taiwan, the de facto US embassy, but was not told if Pelosi would be there. “This will be a show of support for the resistance of the Hong Kong people,” he said of the spokesperson’s looming visit.
In Taipei, some prepared to protest Pelosi’s arrival by pretending outside what they thought would be her hotel. Meanwhile, others planned to welcome the Speaker Free fried chickena popular snack in Taiwanese street.
“Even in the face of threats from the Chinese Communist Party, Pelosi continues to demonstrate her strong will to protect the universal values of democracy and human rights, which I deeply value and appreciate,” said Jerry Liu, director of international affairs for the New Power Party.
“Tonight we call democracy fried chicken,” he said of his plan to distribute 100 portions. “By enjoying it, we excel at fighting the threats of the Chinese Communist Party.”
Vic Chiang and Pei-Lin Wu in Taipei and Lyric Lee in Seoul contributed to this report.
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