By Spy Uganda Correspondent
U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi left Taiwan after a visit that heightened tensions with China, saying Wednesday that she and other members of Congress in her delegation showed they will not abandon their commitment to the self-governing island.
Pelosi, the first U.S. speaker to visit the island in more than 25 years, courted Beijing’s wrath with the visit and set off more than a week of debate, after news of it leaked, over whether it was a good idea.
In Taipei, she remained calm but defiant. “Today the world faces a choice between democracy and autocracy,” she said in a short speech during a meeting with Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen. “America’s determination to preserve democracy, here in Taiwan and around the world, remains ironclad.”
China, which claims Taiwan as its territory and opposes any engagement by Taiwanese officials with foreign governments, announced multiple military exercises around the island, parts of which will enter Taiwanese waters, and issued a series of harsh statements after the delegation touched down Tuesday night in the Taiwanese capital, Taipei.
Beijing depicted the drills as “necessary and just,” said reports. Beijing’s foreign ministry said, “In the current struggle surrounding Pelosi’s Taiwan visit, the United States are the provocateurs, China is the victim.”
Taiwan decried the planned actions, saying they violated the island’s sovereignty.
“Such an act equals to sealing off Taiwan by air and sea, such an act covers our country’s territory and territorial waters, and severely violates our country’s territorial sovereignty,” Capt. Jian-chang Yu said at a briefing by the National Defense Ministry.
The four days of Chinese military exercises, including live fire, are to start Thursday and would be the largest aimed at Taiwan since 1995, when China fired missiles in a large-scale exercise to show its displeasure at a visit by then-Taiwanese President Lee Teng-hui to the U.S.
Taiwanese President Tsai responded firmly Wednesday to Beijing’s military intimidation.
“Facing deliberately heightened military threats, Taiwan will not back down,” Tsai said at her meeting with Pelosi. “We will firmly uphold our nation’s sovereignty and continue to hold the line of defense for democracy.”
When China’s official Xinhua News Agency announced the military actions Tuesday night, it published a map outlining six different areas around Taiwan. Arthur Zhin-Sheng Wang, a defense studies expert at Taiwan’s Central Police University, said three of the areas infringe on Taiwanese waters, meaning they are within 12 nautical miles of shore.
Using live fire in a country’s territorial airspace or waters is risky, said Wang, adding that “according to international rules of engagement, this can possibly be seen as an act of war.”
Pelosi’s trip has heightened U.S.-China tensions more than visits by other members of Congress because of her high-level position as leader of the House of Representatives. She is the first House speaker to visit Taiwan in 25 years, since Newt Gingrich in 1997. However, other members of Congress have visited Taiwan in the past year.