TAIPEI, Aug 3 (Reuters) – China has furiously condemned the highest U.S. visit to Taiwan in 25 years, as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi hailed the self-ruled island as “one of the freest societies in the world” and pledged U.S. solidarity. .
Beijing expressed its anger over Pelosi’s presence on an island it claims is part of China, sparking military action in the waters around it, summoning the US ambassador to Beijing and halting many agricultural imports from Taiwan.
Taiwan’s defense ministry said some of China’s planned military exercises would take place within Taiwan’s 12-nautical-mile sea and air zone, an unprecedented move a senior defense official described to reporters as “tantamount to a sea and air blockade of Taiwan.”
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Pelosi arrived with congressional delegation on an unannounced visit late Tuesday, defying China’s repeated warnings, which she said showed the United States’ unwavering commitment to Taiwan’s democracy.
“Our delegation came to Taiwan to make it clear in no uncertain terms that we will not abandon Taiwan,” Pelosi told Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen Read more
“Now, more than ever, America’s solidarity with Taiwan is important, and that’s the message we bring here today.”
In an address to Congress, Pelosi said the new U.S. law, aimed at strengthening the U.S. chip industry to compete with China, “provides greater opportunity for U.S.-Taiwan economic cooperation.”
“We thank you for your leadership. We want the world to recognize that,” Pelosi told Tsai, who suspected Beijing of pushing for formal independence — a red line for China.
A longtime critic of China, particularly on human rights, Pelosi was set to meet later Wednesday with a former Tiananmen activist, a Hong Kong bookseller detained by China, and a Taiwanese activist recently freed by China. said.
The last time US House Speaker Newt Gingrich visited Taiwan was in 1997. But Pelosi’s visit comes as Sino-US relations have sharply deteriorated as China has emerged as the most powerful economic, military and geopolitical power in the past quarter century.
China considers Taiwan a part of its territory and has never given up using force to bring it under its control. The US warned China not to use the visit as an excuse for military action against Taiwan.
In response, China’s customs department announced a freeze on imports of citrus fruits, cold white striped hairtail and frozen horse mackerel from Taiwan, while its commerce ministry banned exports of natural sand to Taiwan.
Pelosi’s visit, blasted on official Chinese news agencies, was the dominant topic on China’s heavily censored social media, with many users urging Beijing to invade the island in retaliation and lamenting that military action was not taken to prevent her visit. Live tracking of his flight on China’s WeChat was viewed by 22 million people.
China’s Twitter-like Weibo platform went down shortly before Pelosi landed, which Weibo blamed on stretched broadband capacity, not to mention Taiwan.
After Pelosi’s visit, China’s military announced joint air and sea exercises near Taiwan and test launches of conventional missiles into the sea east of the island, Chinese state news agency Xinhua reported, detailing live-fire drills and other drills around Taiwan from Thursday to Sunday.
China’s Foreign Ministry said Pelosi’s visit would seriously damage peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait, “seriously affect the political foundation of Sino-US relations, and seriously violate China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.”
Before Pelosi’s visit, Chinese fighter jets buzzed 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.
After Pelosi’s visit on Tuesday, White House national security spokesman John Kirby said the US was “not going to be intimidated” by China’s threats or bellicose rhetoric and that her visit would not cause a crisis or conflict.
Kirby said China could engage in “economic coercion” on Taiwan, adding that the impact on US-China relations would depend on Beijing’s actions in the coming days and weeks.
The United States does not have official diplomatic relations with Taiwan, but is bound by US law to provide the means of self-defense. China sees visits by US officials to Taiwan as sending a reassuring 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.
Taiwan’s cabinet said on Wednesday that the military had raised its alert level. The island’s defense ministry said 21 Chinese planes entered its air defense identification zone on Tuesday, and China is trying to threaten major ports and cities with drills in the surrounding sea.
“The busiest international channels in the Indo-Pacific region include so-called training areas,” a senior Taiwanese official familiar with its defense planning told Reuters on Wednesday.
“We can see China’s ambition: to turn the Taiwan Strait into non-international waters, as well as to make the entire area west of the first island chain in the western Pacific its sphere of influence,” the person said.
(This story corrects the Tiananmen typo in paragraph 12; the same error occurred in an earlier series)
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Reporting by Yimou Lee and Sarah Wu; By Tony Munro; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore and Stephen Coates
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