According to senior Taiwanese and U.S. government officials, U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is visiting Taiwan as part of her tour of Asia.
The visit is despite warnings from Biden administration officials, who are worried about China’s response to such a high-profile visit.
On Thursday, President Joe Biden and Xi Jinping, his Chinese counterpart, had a two-hour and 17-minute discussion about the trip as tensions mounted between Washington and Beijing.
The soaring U.S.-China tensions around House Speaker Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan highlight parallels with the last high-profile visit caused the 1996 Taiwan Strait Crisis, a flashpoint in U.S.-China relations that saw the White House and Congress publicly disagree.
Similarities With The 1996 Taiwan Strait Crisis
Taiwan’s then-President Lee Teng-hui was invited to attend an alumni celebration at Cornell University, his alma mater.
The White House initially opposed the visit, and President Clinton had assured Beijing Lee would not get a visa.
But Congress passed a resolution supporting Lee’s visit, forcing the White House to issue the visa.
Although it wasn’t a formal state visit, the trip was the first time the U.S. let Taiwan’s top leader travel there, which Beijing saw as a provocation.
Over the following few months, tensions between the U.S. and China increased.
More than 100,000 Chinese soldiers were stationed in Fujian and conducted missile tests, with one missile flying almost directly over Taipei, Taiwan’s capital, and others landing in the waters off Taiwan.
Two aircraft carrier groups were sent from the U.S. through Taiwan Strait.
This time around, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi landed in Taiwan Tuesday despite threats from Beijing that the visit would result in “serious consequences.”
Pelosi and her delegation were greeted by Taiwan Foreign Minister Joseph Wu when they landed at the airport.
Pelosi’s stop, the first for a U.S. House speaker in 25 years, wasn’t on Pelosi’s public itinerary and came at a time when US-China relations were already at a low point.
In order to keep her safe, U.S. Defense Department personnel are working around the clock to track any Chinese movements in the area.
For the first official stop of the tour, Pelosi arrived in Singapore on Monday. There, she met with the nation’s prime minister, president, and other top leaders.
Pelosi also stopped in Malaysia.
Pelosi and her Congressional delegation met with Prime Minister Ismail Sabri and Foreign Minister Saifuddin to discuss advancing their shared goals for “a free and secure Indo-Pacific.”
Pelosi made the visit despite the Chinese Ambassador to the United States saying he “strongly condemns” Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan.
Ambassador Qin Gang told CNN that Pelosi’s visit is “a serious violation of the one-China principle” and will result in an “escalation of tension” in U.S.-China relations.
Gang said China is “fully justified to do what we must” to defend its sovereignty, adding that the Chinese people will not be “humiliated” and China’s response will be “firm, strong and forceful.”
“We would like to tell the U.S. once again that China is standing by, and the Chinese People’s Liberation Army will never sit idly by. China will take resolute responses and strong countermeasures to defend its sovereignty and territorial integrity,” Zhao Lijian, the Foreign Ministry spokesman, told reporters.
“As for what measures, if she dares to go, then let’s wait and see,” Zhao added before Pelosi’s arrival.
The administration’s statement that Pelosi must decide whether to visit was reaffirmed by Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who also added, “We do not know what Speaker Pelosi intends to do.”
On Monday at the United Nations, Blinken stated, “Congress is an independent, coequal branch of government. The decision is entirely the Speaker’s.”
Protesters were seen outside the hotel, where Pelosi was expected to arrive late Tuesday.
An A.P. photo shows one protester holding a banner that reads, “American get out.”
A group also gathered outside the hotel to support Pelosi’s expected trip.
Some banners read, “Madam Speaker Welcome to Taiwan,” and “Republic of Taiwan Welcomes U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.”
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