US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has defended her controversial trip to Chinese Taipei (Taiwan), and accused Chinese President Xi Jinping of acting "like a scared bully.”
In her first interview since returning from Asia last week on NBC News on Tuesday, Pelosi claimed the trip was "absolutely" worth it and said the United States cannot allow China to isolate the self-governing island.
"We cannot allow the Chinese government to isolate Taiwan," Pelosi said. "They're not going to say who can go to Taiwan."
She said President Xi Jinping "has his own insecurities" and she won't let him control the schedule of members of Congress.
"And what the Chinese are doing is what they usually do," she added.
“We met with every Speaker in all five countries, and their members of parliament, so it’s very productive. And in terms of Taiwan, we were not going to take Taiwan off our list because the president of Taiwan has invited us. President of China does not do our schedule,” she added.
Last Wednesday, Pelosi landed in Taiwan, despite stark warnings from China and amid soaring tensions between the world's two superpowers.
From the self-governing territory, Pelosi criticized Beijing and its leadership, while carefully outlining the limitations of the US commitment to defend the island.
Pelosi said her visit was intended to make it "unequivocally clear" that the United States would "not abandon" the island.
China had warned the US and Pelosi against the visit, as it views Taiwan as a breakaway province that will one day rejoin a “one” China. In response to Pelosi’s Taiwan visit, China’s People’s Liberation Army began the largest military exercises targeting Taiwan in decades.
China carried out military exercises in both the seas and airspace surrounding Taiwan.
Pelosi’s controversial and ill-timed visit has been condemned worldwide, with countries such as Russia, Iran, Pakistan, and North Korea backing the One China policy and denouncing the breach of China’s territorial integrity.
Relations between Washington and Beijing have hit a new low over the self-ruled island. China sees Taiwan as part of its territory and has already warned Washington against playing with fire, vowing to punish those who ignore Beijing’s warnings.
Pelosi claims Xi 'is in a fragile place'
In another interview on Tuesday, Pelosi also addressed China's reaction to her recent trip to Taiwan, ranting against Xi.
"I don't think the president of China should control the schedules of members of Congress or anyone else who wants to visit Taiwan," Pelosi said.
"He's trying to isolate Taiwan. ... We will not be accomplices to his isolation of Taiwan," she added of Xi.
"I think that he is in a fragile place. He has problems with his economy. He is acting like a scared bully," she added, adding that Xi will soon be up for re-election later this year.
"We were not going to take Taiwan off our list because of the president of Taiwan has invited us, the president of China does not do our schedule," Pelosi said of the trip's itinerary.
Pelosi said she had received "overwhelming bipartisan support" for her visit and reiterated that "China will not be allowed to isolate Taiwan."
She also questioned why her trip has received so much attention, while a group of US senators traveled to Taiwan several months earlier and it had no impact. "Did anybody make a fuss?" she asked.
"It was bipartisan, it was high-powered, including the chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee — nobody said a word," she said. "If they can ignore a trip of five senators in a bipartisan way, why would they decide on my trip, that it would be different. ... There's something wrong with this picture."
The most senior US legislator had 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.