China has condemned the visit by US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to Taiwan as “extremely dangerous”, warning that the trip was a threat to stability in the region.
Pelosi arrived in Taiwan late on Tuesday on a trip she said demonstrated the United States’ solidarity with the self-governed island, which China claims as its own.
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US Navy deploys warships east of Taiwan ahead of Pelosi’s ‘trip’
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Washington does not recognize Taiwan as an independent state, but is bound by US law to provide the island with the means to defend itself.
The US politician explained her reasons for visiting Taiwan in an editorial published in the Washington Post minutes after she arrived on the island.
“We cannot stand by as the CCP (the Chinese Communist Party) proceeds to threaten Taiwan – and democracy itself,” she wrote in the opinion piece.
Pelosi – the highest-ranking US official to travel to Taiwan in 25 years – arrived at Songshan Airport in downtown Taipei on a flight from Malaysia to begin a visit that risks pushing US-Chinese relations to a new low.
‘Playing with fire’
China immediately condemned Pelosi’s visit, with the foreign ministry saying it seriously damages peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait.
The visit “has a severe impact on the political foundation of China-U.S. relations, and seriously infringes upon China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity”, it said in a statement.
These moves, like playing with fire, are extremely dangerous. Those who play with fire will perish by it,” the statement added.
Chinese warplanes buzzed the line dividing the Taiwan Strait before Pelosi’s arrival. The Chinese military has been put on high alert and will launch “targeted military operations” in response to her visit, the defense ministry said.
The People’s Liberation Army Eastern Theater Command announced that it will conduct joint air and sea drills near Taiwan starting on Tuesday night, and test-launch conventional missiles in the sea east of Taiwan.
Heino Klinck, former US deputy assistant defense secretary, told Al Jazeera that the Chinese military would probably carry out operations in order to send a message to Taiwan and its partners that Beijing is resolute in its opposition to any form of independence or autonomy for Taiwan.
Chinese leaders have “in essence painted themselves into such a public corner on Taiwan that they will have to do something in the short term,” he said.
Yu Jie, a senior research fellow on China at the Chatham House think tank in London, said the Chinese response would probably involve a military stand-off with the US Navy and economic sanctions on Taiwanese agricultural and manufacturing products.
“Despite a chorus of nationalistic rhetoric, China will be careful not to stumble into a conflict with colossal damages on all fronts,” she said. “Beijing cannot afford to be perceived as unilaterally seeking to change what it agreed with the US back in 1979. If that happens, it will provoke the US political establishment to reach a unanimous agreement to change the “One China Policy” in writing. Ahead of the 20th Party congress, the last thing President Xi wants is a useless war to deal with a Congress speaker who only has a few months’ shelf life left.”