Friday, 19 August, 2022

US-China tension escalates after Pelosi’s Taiwan visit

Taiwan's return to motherland a historical inevitability, says Chinese FM

BEIJING/TAIPEI: China insisted Wednesday its military exercises around the Taiwan Strait were "necessary and just" in the wake of US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's visit to the self-ruled island, report agencies.

"The Chinese military's conducting of military exercises in the sea near China's Taiwan are a necessary and just measure to resolutely protect national sovereignty," foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told a regular briefing.

"In the current struggle surrounding Pelosi's Taiwan visit, the United States are the provocateurs, China is the victim. The joint provocation by the US and Taiwan came first, China's just defense came after," she added.

China's leaders have expressed fury at Pelosi's Taiwan visit, painting it as threatening the fragile cross-strait status quo.

In response, China has announced a series of live-fire military exercises around Taiwan, with the Eastern Theatre Command saying that "joint naval and air exercises will be conducted in the northern, southwestern, and southeastern sea and airspaces" of the island.

It is also set Thursday to begin further live-fire military drills in zones encircling Taiwan -- at some points within just 20 kilometres (12 miles) of the island's shore.

The drills will include "long-range live ammunition shooting" in the Taiwan Strait, which separates the island from mainland China and straddles vital shipping lanes.

Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi on Wednesday made clear here China's solemn position on Speaker of the US House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi's visit to China's Taiwan region

Wang, who is attending meetings on East Asia cooperation and on a visit to Cambodia, told reporters that Pelosi's tour is a complete farce.

Wang said the US side, under the guise of so-called democracy, is doing the heinous deeds of violating China's sovereignty.

Such Taiwan independence secessionist forces represented by Tsai Ing-wen, riding the US coattails, have betrayed the righteousness of the great national cause, said Wang.

These perverse practices will not change the international consensus that there is only one China, nor will they change the historical trend that Taiwan will return to the motherland, Wang said.     Those who play with fire will not end up well, and those who violate China's sovereignty will certainly be penalized, he added.

Meanwhile, Taiwan struck a defiant tone on Wednesday as it hosted US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, with a furious China gearing up for military exercises dangerously close to the island's shores in retaliation for the visit.

Pelosi landed in Taiwan on Tuesday despite a series of increasingly stark threats from Beijing, which views the island as its territory and had said it would consider the visit a major provocation.

But Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen said the island of 23 million would not be cowed.

"Facing deliberately heightened military threats, Taiwan will not back down. We will... continue to hold the line of defence for democracy," Tsai said at an event with Pelosi in Taipei.

She also thanked the 82-year-old US lawmaker for "taking concrete actions to show your staunch support for Taiwan at this critical moment".

China tries to keep Taiwan isolated on the world stage and opposes countries having official exchanges with Taipei.

Pelosi, second in line to the presidency, is the highest-profile elected US official to visit Taiwan in 25 years.

"Today, our delegation... came to Taiwan to make unequivocally clear we will not abandon our commitment to Taiwan," she said at the event with Tsai.

She added her group had come "in friendship to Taiwan" and "in peace to the region".

Before leaving Taiwan, Pelosi also met with several dissidents who have previously been in the crosshairs of China's wrath -- including Tiananmen protest student leader Wu'er Kaixi.

"We are in high agreement that Taiwan is in the frontline (of democracy)," Wu'er said.

US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Wednesday that her delegation's visit to Taiwan was a show of support for the island, after the trip sparked a furious response from China.

"Today, our delegation... came to Taiwan to make unequivocally clear we will not abandon our commitment to Taiwan and we are proud of our enduring friendship," Pelosi said during an event with the island's President Tsai Ing-wen.

"Both the United States and Taiwan governments need to... conduct more in defending human rights."

Pelosi's delegation left Taiwan on Wednesday evening headed to South Korea, her next stop in an Asia tour. She will head to Japan after.

Beijing summoned US Ambassador Nicholas Burns over Pelosi's visit, while the Chinese military declared it was on "high alert" and would "launch a series of targeted military actions in response" to the visit.

China rolled out curbs Wednesday on the import of fruit and fish from Taiwan while halting shipments of sand to the island in the wake of a visit by US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Meanwhile, the European Union called on Wednesday for tensions over U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi's visit to Taiwan to be resolved through dialogue and for communication channels with China to be kept open to avoid miscalculation.

The EU has an interest in preserving peace and the status quo in the Taiwan Strait, a spokesperson for the 27-nation bloc said.

We encourage a peaceful resolution of cross-strait issues. Tensions should be resolved through dialogue. Appropriate channels of communication should be maintained to reduce risks of miscalculation.

The European Commission spoksesperson said the EU had a clear One China Policy, recognising the government of the People's Republic of China as the sole legal government of China while also pursuing friendly relations and close cooperation with Taiwan.

Southeast Asian nations Wednesday urged restraint over Taiwan after US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's visit to the island prompted an enraged China to vow punishment.

Pelosi's dramatic trip to Taipei, defying stark threats by China, overshadowed a meeting of Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) foreign ministers in Phnom Penh, which had been expected to focus on the bloody crisis engulfing Myanmar.

ASEAN spokesman Kung Phoak, Cambodia's deputy foreign minister, said ministers at the closed-door talks -- meeting face to face for the first time since the pandemic -- had expressed concern over growing tension in the Taiwan Strait.

We hope that all sides will try their best to deescalate the tension there, avoid actions that may contribute to the escalation of tension and engage in dialogue, Kung Phoak told reporters.

Malaysia and Thailand echoed the calls for calm, with Malaysian Foreign Minister Saifuddin Abdullah urging all sides to tread very carefully.