The landing of the US House of Representatives Speaker in Taipei has triggered a major crisis between China and the United States in the region and will be viewed as a victory in a test of confidence between the two powers for America and personally for Nancy Pelosi. However, it is feared that this may be only the beginning as China’s Foreign Ministry, on Tuesday, warned the United States that there will be a price to pay while officials again repeated President Xi Jinping’s chilling message to President Biden that things will not end well for those who play with fire.
US Speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi defied Communist China on Tuesday evening when she touched down in Taiwan to pay a historic visit to the self-governed island and state that China claims to wield sovereignty over. The plane carrying the 82-year-old left Malaysia on Tuesday afternoon heading towards Borneo before turning northwards towards the Philippines as Chinese warships accompanied by naval vessels in the Taiwan Straits took to the sky and behaved in an unprecedented manner designed to intimidate the American leader.
US Speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi touched down on Tuesday at Songshan Airport in Taipei sparking fury from Communist party authorities in Beijing who for weeks have warned senior figures in the US administration, including President Biden, that the visit will spark severe retaliation including threats of military action.
Indeed, in the hours leading up to her visit, Chinese warplanes took to the sky and flew near the dividing line in the Taiwan Strait accompanied by naval vessels.
US military and assets deployed in waters east of Taiwan including battleships and an aircraft carrier
US military forces were deployed strategically in waters east of the island with four warships and the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan.
The actions of the Chinese warplanes were described as unprecedented and clearly a signal of Beijing’s displeasure with Pelosi, a known foe of Communist China, being present in the area and her visit to Taiwan which China regards as a renegade province of its own, a status that is recognised by both the United States and the United Nations.
On Tuesday, sources in Washington DC dismissed the Chinese moves as ‘sabre rattling’ and said the United States would not be intimidated.
News of a Taiwan stop began filtering out on Monday night after Pelosi’s Asian trip began in Singapore
Confirmation of the visit emerged on Monday night with some newspapers confirming the story in Taiwan and a tower in Taipei signalling its welcome and support for the US leader and its most important ally.
Pelosi had begun her trip in Singapore where the city-state’s leaders emphasised to her the need for peace between the two powers in the region.
Taipei 101, the tallest building on the island with a population of 23 million, flashed messages of support for the visit such as ‘Welcome to Taiwan Speaker Pelosi’ and ‘Taiwan loves the USA’ while later, on Tuesday, pro-Chinese demonstrators in Taipei turned up outside the Grand Hyatt Hotel to protest the visit.
It is understood that the speaker arrived in Taipei on board a private plane that earlier on Tuesday departed from Malaysia which was the second country of Ms Pelosi’s Asian tour which could be her last in advance of the US General Election in November which is expected to see a resurgent Republican Party take the House and Speaker’s office.
Role of Pelosi in facing down China’s intimidation seen as a victory in a crucial test of confidence
It is thought that Pelosi will have lunch with Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen on Tuesday before later flying on to South Korea and Japan, key US allies in Asia as the superpower has begun consolidating as well as strengthening its position and role in the region.
The role of Ms Pelosi in facing down China’s concerted attempt of intimidation may well be seen as a victory in a crucial test of confidence with a marked increase in belligerence from the Communist country, currently suffering severe economic problems, since 2019.
In Malaysia, the speaker met Prime Minister Ismail Sabri and Foreign Minister Saifuddin Abdullah before visiting the Speaker of the Malaysian parliament Azhar Azizan Harun at his offices.
Her plane, after it left Malaysia on Tuesday, flew towards Borneo and then northwards towards the Philippines.
China’s furious reaction to the visit as Foreign Minister Wang Yi described US actions as ‘despicable’
Before the plane touched down, there was already evidence of Chinese reaction to it with Foreign Minister Wang Yi describing the actions of the United States as ‘despicable’ while even before People’s Liberation Army (PLA) aircraft flew dangerously closer to Taiwan than before, the website of the Taiwanese President, Ms Tsai Ing-wen went offline shortly after her office confirmed the speaker’s visit in what is believed to have been a DDOS attack by hackers working for Beijing.
The website was quickly restored to normal with authorities in Taipei saying it would be monitored by Taiwanese military experts with a spokesman for President Tsai Ing-wen suggesting that the malware attacks, on Tuesday, were 200 times more powerful than normal.
Meanwhile, Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, as late as Tuesday afternoon, while still not confirming the visit, had earlier welcomed the move.
‘Taiwan always welcomes international visitors coming to Taiwan to gain a better understanding of Taiwan and to display their support for Taiwan,’ its spokesperson Jianne Ou explained to reporters.
Military movements near Taiwan on Tuesday as US military prepared for any eventuality with fear for the Speaker’s plane based on intelligence information
Ms Pelosi’s trip had been accompanied by naval manoeuvres near the Taiwan Strait and the South China Sea as America repositioned its military assets to be ready for any eventuality.
The visit is believed to have sparked major concern among some elements of President Biden’s White House with fears that Chinese authorities may have targeted the plane carrying Ms Pelosi, a suggestion that had been relayed through intelligence channels.
These fears were certainly not dispelled by a robust exchange, over the weekend, between the US President, Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping who told his US counterpart that those who play with fire will be burned by it.
Last visit was by Newt Gingrich in 1997
The last visit by such a senior US official was in 1997 when it was the then Speaker of the House of Representatives, Newt Gingrich, who made the trip to Taipei.
This followed the 19965/96 crisis over Taiwan when Beijing fired missiles into the sea and was stared down by US President Bill Clinton who also deployed naval forces including aircraft carriers to the region.
This is not forgotten in China with Communist Party officials now heralding the country’s superior military capability and economic standing as reasons for taking a strong stand.
The situation is also made more fraught with concern in Beijing at how this clash will be seen by an upcoming key meeting of the Chinese Communist party at which President Xi Jinping is expected to burnish his credentials as a strong, decisive and more nationalistic leader to secure an unprecedented third term with reports of some internal challenges to his leadership.
Chinese demonstrations orchestrated throughout Asia against the visit with the Chinese Foreign Ministry warning of a price to be paid by the US
Throughout China, as well as in Taiwan and other parts of Asia there were Communist Party orchestrated demonstrations against the visit of the 82-year-old Pelosi who has a long record of hostility towards Beijing ever since the Tiananmen Square massacre of pro-democracy protesters in 1989 by the Chinese armed forces where thousands were killed.
On Tuesday, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi decried the US position after the determined and unintimidated approach of Washington DC became visible in the last 24 hours. He said the ‘breach of faith on the Taiwan issue is despicable.’
The statement came on the website of the Chinese Foreign Ministry where spokesperson, Hua Chunying, on Tuesday told reporters that this visit will have consequences.
Officials in Beijing again repeated the chilling warning of the Chinese President to President Biden last weekend saying that things would not end well for those who played with fire.
‘The US side will bear the responsibility and pay the price for undermining China’s sovereign security interests,’ she said. ‘Faced with reckless US disregard of China’s repeated and serious representations, any countermeasures taken by the Chinese side will be justified and necessary, which is also the right of any independent and sovereign country.’
Despite off-the-record briefings last week that the White House was nervous about Ms Pelosi’s visit, the National Security Council spokesman, John Kirby, on Tuesday defended it stoutly.
‘There is no reason for Beijing to turn a potential visit consistent with longstanding US policies into some sort of crisis,’ he said.