US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi reassures that Washington will not abandon its commitment to Taiwan, while Beijing announces a series of military operations to counter her visit.
The United States wants Taiwan to always have freedom with security and will not back away from that, US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi has said during a visit to Taipei fiercely criticised by China.
“Today the world faces a choice between democracy and autocracy,” Pelosi said in a short speech during a meeting with Taiwan's President Tsai Ing-wen on Wednesday.
“America’s determination to preserve democracy, here in Taiwan and around the world, remains ironclad,” she said, with a furious China gearing up for military exercises dangerously close to the island's shores in retaliation for the visit.
"Today, our delegation...came to Taiwan to make unequivocally clear we will not abandon our commitment to Taiwan and we are proud of our enduring friendship," Pelosi, who is leading the trip with five other members of Congress, said.
She met with representatives from Taiwan’s legislature earlier on Wednesday.
China claims Taiwan as its territory and opposes any engagement by Taiwanese officials with foreign governments.
It vowed to launch "targeted military actions" and announced multiple drills after the US delegation touched down in the Taiwanese capital, Taipei, on Tuesday night.
It also rolled out curbs on the import of fruit and fish from Taiwan while halting shipments of sand to the island over compliance issues, though analysts link the move to Pelosi's visit.
'Taiwan will not back down'
Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen was more pointed about Chinese threats in her remarks than Pelosi was.
"Facing deliberately heightened military threats, Taiwan will not back down. We will...continue to hold the line of defence for democracy," Tsai said at the event with Pelosi in Taipei.
Tsai, thanking Pelosi for her decades of support for Taiwan, presented the speaker with a civilian honour, the Order of the Propitious Clouds.
While respecting the "One China" policy, the US supports the status quo and does not want anything to happen to Taiwan by force, Pelosi added.
Washington recognises Chinese sovereignty but opposes any enforcement, allowing the Taiwanese to retain their distinct rule.
Although US officials frequently visit Taiwan, separated by a narrow strip of water from the Chinese mainland, Beijing considers a Pelosi trip as a major provocation.
The visit has heightened US-China tensions more than visits by other members of Congress because of her high-level position as leader of the House of Representatives. She is the first speaker of the house to come to Taiwan in 25 years, since Newt Gingrich in 1997.
Shortly after Pelosi landed, China announced live-fire drills and a four-day exercise beginning on Thursday in waters on all sides of the island.
China’s air force also flew a relatively large contingent of 21 war planes, including fighter jets, toward Taiwan.
Pelosi will visit a human rights museum in Taipei later on Wednesday before she departs for South Korea, the next stop on an Asia tour that also includes Singapore, Malaysia and Japan.
Pelosi said her group had come "in friendship to Taiwan" and "in peace to the region". She noted that support for Taiwan is bipartisan in Congress and praised the island’s democracy.