Taiwan's military has increased its combat readiness in the face of threats from China ahead of US leader Nancy Pelosi's expected visit to Taipei on Tuesday. According to information from the parliament in Taipei, the chairperson of the US House of Representatives was expected in the democratic island republic in the evening local time. It would be the highest-ranking visit from the United States in a quarter of a century to free Taiwan, which the leadership in Beijing only sees as part of the People's Republic of China.
China's People's Liberation Army increased the threat with maneuvers, target practice, military aircraft and warships near Taiwan and the closure of sea areas. In response, Taiwan's military increased its operational readiness on Tuesday, the CNA news agency reported. However, the two-stage alarm system is not yet a classification for the "emergency", but continues to be a "normal operational readiness".
Pelosi may meet Taiwan's President
With the unannounced visit, Pelosi would ignore the warnings from Beijing. A Taiwanese MP confirmed to the German Press Agency that Pelosi is expected to arrive in Taipei on Tuesday evening from Malaysia as part of her Asia trip. Local media expect Pelosi around 10:30 p.m. local time (4:30 p.m. BST). Security has been tightened around the hotel where Pelosi may be staying overnight. There could be a meeting with President Tsai Ing-wen on Wednesday.
China's head of state and party leader Xi Jinping warned US President Joe Biden in a telephone call on Thursday before the visit: "Those who play with fire will perish." From the point of view of the Chinese leadership, Taiwan is part of the People's Republic, although it was already governed independently before it was founded in 1949. The island, which has a population of 23 million, has long considered itself independent. Referring to its "One China Doctrine," Beijing firmly rejects official contacts from other countries to Taipei.
Beijing threatens to conquer Taiwan
China's president sees it as his "historic" mission to achieve "unification" with Taiwan and threatens conquest. The claim to power on the island goes back to the founding history of the People's Republic, which explains its great importance for the Communist Party. At the end of the civil war against the communists, the national Chinese Kuomintang government fled with its troops to Taiwan, while the communists proclaimed the People's Republic in 1949. The island is of geostrategic importance due to its location on economically important straits, and US generals used to like to describe it as an "unsinkable aircraft carrier".
According to US media reports, Pelosi's travel plan was still in motion, as the Pentagon was monitoring all of the Chinese side's steps. Work is being done "around the clock" to ensure the security of the number three in the United States - after the president and his deputy, it said. Military responses have been discussed in China's state media, ranging from China's air force escorting Pelosi's plane and maneuvers to even establishing a no-fly zone around Taiwan or missile tests.
China accuses the US of "provocations".
Relations between China and the United States "are almost on the razor's edge," wrote the party-affiliated newspaper Global Times. "The countermeasures that the high command envisages against Pelosi's possible visit to Taiwan must be far more rigorous and extensive than can be imagined. China's warning to the US is not idle talk." State Department spokeswoman Hua Chunying accused the United States of "provocations" and threatened "vigorous and resolute action." The US would "pay a price".
The White House warned Beijing of an escalation. "There is no reason for Beijing to turn a possible visit, consistent with longstanding US policy, into a crisis or conflict," said Security Council communications director John Kirby. The US would not engage in "saber rattling." "At the same time, we don't let ourselves be intimidated."
Washington: Visit does not change China policy
According to him, the visit does not change "anything" about the USA's China policy. The US does not maintain official diplomatic relations with Taiwan, but regards Beijing as China's legitimate representative. The Democrat's visit would be the highest from the United States since the visit of her former Republican predecessor Newt Gingrich in 1997. At that time, shortly before the return of the British crown colony of Hong Kong to China, the Chinese reaction was moderate because Gingrich had previously visited Beijing.
The US top politician will probably also meet with the vice president of the parliament, Tsai Chi-chang, and members of the legislative council in Taipei, the Taiwanese parliamentarian reported to the dpa. Parliament leader You Shyi-kun was prevented because he was in quarantine after a trip abroad.