Nancy Pelosi, the US House of Representatives Speaker, said on Wednesday that she came to Taiwan in "peace for the region" even as Beijing warned against visiting the region. Pelosi's visit triggered a diplomatic row between the US and China, with Beijing warning that the US will pay for "undermining China's sovereign security interests."
The US delegation defied the warnings and Pelosi landed in Taipei late on Tuesday as there was huge speculation about whether she will call off her visit. In light of Pelosi's speech on Wednesday and China's warnings, here's a look at the events that triggered the diplomatic dispute between the two countries.
Pelosi's visit to Taiwan Parliament
Pelosi on Wednesday morning met with the deputy speaker of Taiwan's parliament Tsai Chi-chang hours after she landed in the region. AFP quoted Pelosi as saying, "We come in friendship to Taiwan, we come in peace to the region." She held a closed-door session at the Parliament.
BBC reported that Pelosi spoke about strengthening ties between the two countries by increasing parliamentary exchanges between Washington and Taipei. She also hailed the country for being among the "freest societies in the world".
The US House Speaker, according to the BBC report, said that the two countries could increase cooperation for computer chips as TSMC, a chip manufacturer in the country, produces more than half of the world's semiconductors.
At an event with Pelosi, Taiwan's President Tsai Ing-wen continued to defy China and said that Taiwan "won't back down". "Facing deliberately heightened military threats, Taiwan will not back down. We will... continue to hold the line of defence for democracy," Tsai said.
Why is Pelosi in Taiwan?
As Pelosi landed in Taiwan, she tweeted saying, "Our visit reiterates that America stands with Taiwan: a robust, vibrant democracy and our important partner in the Indo-Pacific."
Pelosi further elaborated in an opinion piece in The Washington Post that the trip was to show support to the vibrant Taiwanese democracy as China has increased aggression in the region. "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 wrote.
Citing the recent events of China ramping up military action in the region through "bombers, fighter jets and surveillance aircraft near and even over Taiwan's air defense zone", she said this had led the US to conclude that China's army was preparing to unite Taiwan to the Republic of China by force.
But this isn't the first time Pelosi has been in the region. Pelosi has a long connection to the region and has always supported democracy in the region. Pelosi visited Tiananmen Square in Beijing two years after student-led demonstrations made headlines across the world. She was a California representative at the time.
In a tweet in 2019, Pelosi posted a video of her visit. She said in the tweet, "28 years ago, we traveled to Tiananmen Square to honor the courage & sacrifice of the students, workers & ordinary citizens who stood for the dignity & human rights that all people deserve. To this day, we remain committed to sharing their story with the world. #Tiananmen30"
China has issued explicit threats to the US over the visit. BBC quoted Beijing as saying, "Those who play with fire will perish by it." China considers Taiwan a part of its territory and sees the US visit as a threat to its power.
Reuters reported China as saying that Pelosi's visit would disturb the peace in the region. Chinese warplanes entered Taiwan's airspace and the country also put its military on high alert.
China's state news agency Xinhua said that Beijing announced joint air and sea drills near Taiwan on Tuesday night. It also reportedly carried out test launches of conventional missiles in the sea east of Taiwan. The agency reported that China is expected to carry out live-fire drills near Taiwan from Thursday to Sunday amid Pelosi's visit.
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