Wednesday, August 10, 2022

Pelosi hails Taiwan's free society as China holds military drills, vents anger

Pelosi hails Taiwan's free society as China holds military drills, vents anger

TAIPEI (Reuters) - China 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" in a speech to the parliament in Taipei on Wednesday.

Beijing demonstrated its anger with Pelosi's presence on an island that it says is part of China with a burst of military activity in the surrounding waters, and by summoning the US ambassador in Beijing, and announcing the suspension of several agricultural imports from Taiwan.

Pelosi arrived in Taipei late on Tuesday on an unannounced but closely watched trip, saying that it shows unwavering US commitment to Taiwan's democracy.

Addressing parliament on Wednesday, Pelosi praised President Tsai Ing-wen.

"We thank you for your leadership. We want the world to recognize that," Pelosi said, while also calling for increased inter-parliamentary cooperation.

Pelosi went on to say that new US legislation aimed at strengthening the American chip industry to compete with China "offers greater opportunity for US-Taiwan economic cooperation."

Now more than ever, America's solidarity with Taiwan is crucial, Pelosi told Tsai, adding that America's determination to preserve democracy in Taiwan and the rest of the world remains iron-clad.

She was also set to meet with human rights activists later in the day.

The last House Speaker to go to Taiwan was Newt Gingrich visited 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.

Early on Wednesday, China's customs department announced a suspension of imports of citrus fruits, chilled white striped hairtail and frozen horse mackerel from Taiwan, while its commerce ministry suspended export of natural sand to Taiwan.

MILITARY DRILLS

Shortly after Pelosi's arrival, China's military announced joint air and sea drills near Taiwan and test launches of conventional missiles in the sea east of Taiwan, with Chinese state news agency Xinhua describing live-fire drills and other exercises around Taiwan from Thursday to Sunday.

China's foreign ministry said Pelosi's visit seriously damages peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait, "has a severe impact on the political foundation of China-US relations, and seriously infringes upon China's sovereignty and territorial integrity."

White House national security spokesman John Kirby said on Tuesday after Pelosi's arrival that the United States "is not going to be intimidated" by China's threats or bellicose rhetoric and that there is no reason her visit should precipitate a crisis or conflict.

"We will continue to support Taiwan, defend a free and open Indo-Pacific and seek to maintain communication with Beijing," Kirby told a later White House briefing, adding that the United States "will not engage in sabre-rattling."

The United States has no official diplomatic relations with Taiwan but is bound by American law to provide it with the means to defend itself. China views visits by US officials to Taiwan as sending an encouraging signal to the pro-independence camp on the island. Taiwan rejects China's sovereignty claims, saying only the Taiwanese people can decide the island's future.

Japan's Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno told a news conference that the government has conveyed concerns over the military operations to China, and reiterated that Japan hopes issues over the Taiwan Strait will be resolved through dialogue.