The US House of Representatives speaker arrived in Malaysia this morning and the US military plane carrying the third-most senior figure in the government and the Congressional delegation has now landed in Taiwan.
A Taiwanese fighter aircraft reportedly went into “alert mode” after Speaker Pelosi’s USAF C-40C aircraft entered the Taiwanese Air Defense Identification Zone.
The Ministry of National Defense of the Republic of China spokesperson Li-Fang Sun confirmed that no Su-35 fighter aircraft crossed the Taiwan Strait, but acknowledged that other types of People’s Liberation Army aircrafts did.
But her visit has defied all threats from China, who said the US would “pay the price” if she sets foot on the disputed island.
China views Taiwan as part of its territory in a breakaway province and Chinese President Xi Jinping has a huge ambition to join it with the mainland, saying he would annexe it by force if necessary.
In 1949, Taiwan and China split after the Communists won a civil war on the mainland.
Then in 2016, China cut off all contact with Taiwan’s government after Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen refused to endorse Bejing’s claim that the island and mainland together make up a single Chinese nation.
China’s state-run Global Times said Ms Pelosi’s visit could catalyse the “reunification” process of Taiwan with China.
She is the most senior elected US official to visit in more than 25 years and was welcomed by the Taipei 101 landmark skyscraper lit up with the words: “Speaker Pelosi Welcome to Taiwan!”
Xinhua News Agency announced minutes after Pelosi’s arrival that from August 4 to August 7, 2022, the Chinese People’s Liberation Army will conduct “important military exercises and training activities including live-fire drills in the following maritime areas” with a map attached showing areas surrounding Taiwan.
Zhang Jun, the Chinese ambassador to the United Nations, called the visit dangerous and said it would “send a seriously wrong signal to Taiwan’s separatist elements”.
As it was reported that Pelosi’s fleet got closer to the country, Chinese fighter jets edged closer to the border of the Taiwan Strait. This served as a grave warning to Taipei of Beijing’s air forces’ capabilities and how quickly they can reach the airspace.
Ms Pelosi tweeted a statement after the touchdown, saying: “America’s solidarity with the 23 million people of Taiwan is more important today than ever, as the world faces a choice between autocracy and democracy.
“Our visit is one of several Congressional delegations to Taiwan – and it in no way contradicts longstanding United States policy, guided by the Taiwan Relations Act of 1979, U.S.-China Joint Communiques and the Six Assurances.”
But US Congress believes the United States should help Taiwan fight off a Chinese attack.
Before Pelosi stepped foot on soil, Chinese and Taiwanese militaries had dispatched fighter jets and bolstered combat readiness.
Footage shared on the social network Weibo appeared to show amphibious tanks along the Taiwan Strait deployed by Beijing.
Further videos showed military equipment on the move in the city of Xiamen.
America has placed four warships, including the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan, in waters east of Taiwan on “routine” deployments.
The Japanese-based Reagan is operating with a guided missile cruiser, USS Antietam, and a destroyer, USS Higgins.
“We once again sternly warn the US side that China stands at the ready and the Chinese People’s Liberation Army will never sit idly by,” Zhao Lijian, a spokesman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry said on Monday.
Warning that “China will take resolute and vigorous countermeasures.”
Military units across the People’s Liberation Army’s Southern Theater Command, which is in charge of the South China Sea are poised to act and have entered a status of high alert, military officials told the Financial Times.
Suspicions that the airspace in Fujian, the Chinese province closest to Taiwan, was being cleared for military movements arose as domestic air traffic was disrupted.
Pelosi has continually criticised the Chinese communist government and its alleged human rights abuses and Wang Yi, the Chinese foreign minister, says Pelosi is using her personal interests to play with fire on the Taiwan issue and is making herself “the enemy of the 1.4 billion Chinese people.”
John Kirby, the White House National Security Council spokesman, said Pelosi’s visit on a military aircraft is not at risk of a direct attack and should the Chinese military retaliate it “raises the stakes of a miscalculation”.
Taylor Fravel, director of the Security Studies Program at MIT tweeted: “The response will almost certainly include a military component, most likely with a show of force in the first instance – live fire exercises, a much greater military presence within the Taiwan Strait and … even missile tests.
“The response will likely unfold over days if not weeks, but likely start after Pelosi departs Taiwan.”