World · August 3, 2022

Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan ends, China plans military exercises: real-time updates

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House Speaker Nancy Pelosi met with Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen in a series of high-profile meetings. Ms. Pelosi received an award given to those who have made an outstanding contribution to Taiwan.CreditCredit…Taiwan presidential office, via Reuters

After weeks of silence before a high-risk visit to Taiwan, speaker Nancy Pelosi was anything but underestimated on Wednesday during a day of high-profile meetings, in which she offered support to Taiwan and harassed China.

Ms. Pelosi met with Taiwanese lawmakers and then Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen, offering strident assurances of US support for the island’s democracy that China claims as its own. On the whirlwind day of events, she was greeted by crowds of supporters waving banners and followed by the media and protesters, her closely watched encounters and movements were partially streamed online.

In its wake, it left a crisis, setting the stage for a new compromise between China and the United States on power and influence in Asia. Taiwan is now preparing for Beijing to begin live-fire military exercises on Thursday, an unprecedented recent historical escalation that could surround the island and drop missiles into the sea just 10 miles from its coast.

“Today the world is faced with a choice between democracy and autocracy,” Ms. Pelosi said during a meeting with Taiwan’s president. “America’s determination to preserve democracy here in Taiwan and around the world remains ironclad.”

The meetings, while light in substance, were widely received in Taiwan as a symbolic victory. Ms. Pelosi’s trip was a rare moment when a major foreign power publicly showed support for the island in the face of vehement opposition from China. Ms. Pelosi made the trip despite President Biden’s discouragement, creating a historic moment when she became the highest-ranking member of the United States government to visit the island in 25 years.

The events represented an affront to China. Ms. Pelosi, who traveled to South Korea late Wednesday afternoon, solidified U.S. support, praised Taiwan’s handling of Covid, and met with human rights leaders, all while strengthening that even if Beijing could isolate Taiwan, it could not prevent American leaders from going there.

It also brought in economic commitments, defining a trade deal between Taiwan and the United States, hopefully imminent, and holding a cordial meeting with the president of Taiwanese chip giant TSMC Arguably one of the most geopolitically important companies in the world, TSMC has been courted by the US officials hope to increase domestic microchip production.

The trip took place against the backdrop of increasingly heated warnings from Beijing. Along with the military drills, a series of hacks hit Taiwan government websites. And China used its status as Taiwan’s largest trading partner to go wild, announcing new trade limits on Wednesday, including a suspension of imports of certain fruits and fish and a ban on the export of sand, a key building material.

Ms. Pelosi’s visit could also damage the White House’s push to bolster support for China from key allies in the region who, analysts say, felt marginalized from the trip and frustrated by mounting tensions.

While Ms. Pelosi visited Taipei, the capital, there was sometimes an almost carnival atmosphere. But the atmosphere was much more threatening across the strait separating China from Taiwan, creating the real potential for a military showdown. China’s live-fire drills would mark a direct challenge to what Taiwan calls its coast and territorial waters. The coordinates for the drills indicated that they may take place closer than previous tests during a deadlock 26 years ago.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hua Chunying also said Wednesday that Ms. Pelosi’s visit would be followed by further punishments for the United States and Taiwan.

“As for the specific countermeasures, what I can tell you is that they will include everything that should be included,” Ms. Hua said, according to the People’s Daily. “The measures in question will be firm, vigorous and effective and the US side and the Taiwanese independence forces will continue to perceive them.”