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US House Speaker Pelosi lands in Chinese Taipei, escalating US tensions with China

This handout photo taken and released by Malaysia's Department of Information on August 2, 2022, shows Speaker of the US House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi waving as she leaves the Parliament House after a meeting with Malaysian officials in Kuala Lumpur. (Photo by AFP)

US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has landed in Chinese Taipei (Taiwan), and the Chinese military vowed to launch "targeted military actions" in response to her visit. 

Despite stark warnings from China and amid soaring tensions between the world's two superpowers, the most senior US legislator arrived in Taiwan on Tuesday.  

Live television images showed the 82-year-old lawmaker, who flew in on a US military aircraft into Taipei's Songshan Airport, being greeted on arrival by Taiwan's foreign minister Joseph Wu.

Moments before Pelosi’s landing in Taipei, Chinese media announced advanced Su-35 fighter jets were moving toward the island. However, the exact destination and mission of the jets were not announced. 

"The US breach of faith on the Taiwan issue is despicable," Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi said in comments published on his ministry's website earlier Tuesday.

Pelosi is the highest-ranking US official to go to Taiwan in 25 years and Beijing has made clear that it regards her visit as a major provocation. In 1997, the then-House speaker Newt Gingrich traveled to Taiwan and met with President Lee Teng-hui.

Pelosi: China threatens ‘democracy itself’

In an op-ed published to coincide with her arrival in the island nation on Tuesday night local time, Pelosi said Chinese aggression toward Taiwan is a threat to “democracy itself”.  

The article was published in the Washington Post as Pelosi touched down in Taiwan. 

“We cannot stand by as the [Chinese Communist Party] proceeds to threaten Taiwan — and democracy itself,” Pelosi wrote.

She claimed the Chinese government has dramatically increased tensions with Taiwa.

She also accused China of launching cyber attacks on the Taiwanese government and exerting economic pressure by urging companies to cut ties with Taiwan. 

“In the face of the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) accelerating aggression, our congressional delegation’s visit should be seen as an unequivocal statement that America stands with Taiwan, our democratic partner, as it defends itself and its freedom,” Pelosi said.  

US Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and 25 other Republican senators released a joint statement on Tuesday praising  Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan.

“We support Speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi’s trip to Taiwan,” the statement reads.

“For decades, members of the United States Congress, including previous Speakers of the House, have travelled to Taiwan,” it continues. “This travel is consistent with the United States’ One China policy to which we are committed. We are also committed now, more than ever, to all elements of the Taiwan Relations Act.”

Pelosi says visit shows US 'unwavering commitment' to Taiwan

Pelosi said Tuesday upon arrival in Taiwan that her visit demonstrated America’s strong commitment to the island, which China considers a part of its territory.

"Our congressional delegation's visit to Taiwan honors America's unwavering commitment to supporting Taiwan's vibrant democracy," she said in a statement moments after her plane landed.

The most senior US legislator said her trip "in no way" contradicted official US policy, which recognizes "one China" and has not officially recognized Taiwan as an independent state.

Under the "one China" policy, nearly all countries across the globe recognize Beijing's sovereignty over Chinese Taipei, including the US, which nevertheless courts the secessionist government in Taipei, supports its anti-China stance, and supplies it with massive amounts of armaments.

China slams 'extremely dangerous' US actions

China on Tuesday condemned Washington’s actions in Taiwan as "extremely dangerous.”

"The United States... constantly distorts, obscures and hollows out the 'One China' principle," the Chinese foreign ministry said in a statement after Pelosi's plane touched down in Taiwan.

"These moves, like playing with fire, are extremely dangerous. Those who play with fire will perish by it."

China's military vowed to launch "targeted military actions" in response to Pelosi's visit to Taiwan.

"The Chinese People's Liberation Army is on high alert and will launch a series of targeted military operations to counter this, resolutely defend national sovereignty and territorial integrity, and resolutely thwart external interference and 'Taiwan independence' separatist attempts," PLA spokesman Wu Qian said in a statement condemning the visit.

Media reports said on Tuesday that several Chinese planes and warships flew and sailed close to the median line dividing the Taiwan Strait ahead of Pelosi’s visit.

The Chinese aircraft repeatedly conducted tactical moves of briefly "touching" the median line and circling back to the other side of the strait while Taiwanese aircraft were on standby nearby.

In a call with US President Joe Biden last week, Chinese President Xi Jinping also warned the United States against "playing with fire" on Taiwan.

Meanwhile, Russia earlier on Tuesday expressed full solidarity with China and censured the visit by Pelosi to Taiwan as a pure provocation.

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