China is holding military exercises ahead of an expected visit of US House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi to Taiwan. A person familiar with the matter told Reuters on Tuesday that several Chinese warplanes were spotted near the border line in the sensitive Taiwan Strait on Tuesday morning.
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Several Chinese warships have also been patrolling near the unofficial buffer zone in the strait since Monday. Both Chinese warships and aircraft touched the central line of the waterway. The maneuver is unusual and „extremely provocative”. Taiwan sent aircraft to monitor the situation.
Earlier, senior Taiwanese and US officials said Pelosi plans to visit Taiwan as part of her Asian tour. A Taiwanese lawmaker told dpa in Taipei that Pelosi may arrive in Taipei on Tuesday evening local time from Malaysia.
There may be a meeting with President Tsai Ing-wen on Wednesday. According to US media reports, the travel plan is underway, while the Pentagon is monitoring all steps taken by the Chinese side and working „around the clock” to ensure the security of the number three in the United States – after the president. And his deputy – as he was called.
Taiwan Prime Minister Su Tsing-chang evaded an obvious answer on Monday about whether Pelosi would come to Taiwan on Thursday. „We always welcome the visits of highly prized foreign guests to our country,” he told reporters in the capital, Taipei.
US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi did not say she would stop on the island on Sunday when she officially confirmed her trip to the Indo-Pacific.
The Chinese leadership reacted nervously to the reports — and did not rule out military responses: Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian told a press conference in Beijing on Monday that Pelosi’s Taiwan visit would be „a blatant interference in China’s internal affairs.”
He spoke of a „very serious situation and consequences” for the United States. The Chinese side is fully prepared for all possibilities. „The People’s Liberation Army will not stand idly by, and the Chinese side will definitely take firm and decisive measures to safeguard our sovereignty and territorial integrity,” Lijian said.
China reacts nervously
Chinese state media have been discussing military reactions for days, ranging from the Chinese Air Force’s escort and maneuvers of Pelosi’s plane to the establishment of a no-fly zone around Taiwan and missile tests. The party’s Global Times newspaper wrote on Twitter that relations between China and the United States were „almost on the edge of a precipice”.
„The countermeasures that the senior leadership is planning to deal with Pelosi’s possible visit to Taiwan must be more stringent and comprehensive than can be imagined. China’s warning to the United States is not empty talk.”
But the White House warned Beijing against escalation. „There is no reason for Beijing to turn a potential visit consistent with long-term US policy into a crisis or conflict,” John Kirby, director of communications for the White House National Security Council, said on Monday.
He said the United States would not engage in „rattle of swords”. Kirby said the visit would not change „anything” in the United States’ one-China policy. The United States does not have formal diplomatic relations with Taiwan, but it considers Beijing the legitimate representative of China.
Important diplomatic visit
The Communist government of China considers free Taiwan part of its territory and threatens „unification”, militarily if necessary. When Russia launched its war of aggression against Ukraine in February, concerns were raised that China might try to annex the island by force..
Nancy Pelosi will be the highest-ranking US political visitor to receive Taiwan in 25 years. Newt Gingrich, who is also the Speaker of the House of Representatives, visited the island in 1997.
Pelosi originally wanted to travel in April, but had to cancel the trip due to her coronavirus illness. What may be unusual about the speaker’s trip to Taiwan is that she did not announce it in advance.
On Sunday, Pelosi identified Malaysia, South Korea, Japan and Singapore as the only destinations, with Pelosi arriving on Monday. She said the focus was on „common security, economic partnership and democratic governance in the Indo-Pacific region”.
Why Joe Biden didn’t want to stand up to Pelosi
The „The New York Times, whose identity was not revealed, quoted US officials as saying they did not believe Pelosi would actually travel to Taiwan in light of the announcement. However, she could still change her mind, although that seems unlikely, according to a New York Times report.
Aides to US President Joe Biden also told the New York Times, without revealing their identity, that he had decided not to ask Pelosi to cancel her scheduled trip to Taiwan. This had to do with his respect for the independence of the US Congress.
In addition, he does not want to succumb to the threats of the Chinese leadership. Threats, such as those made by Chinese President Xi Jinping, who is said to have told Joe Biden during a phone call: „Those who play with fire will die.”
In light of Chinese comments, US officials reportedly said they felt that the matter involved greater geopolitical risks Prevent Pelosi’s visit from simply letting her do so. However, Pelosi put Biden in an awkward position. „I think the military thinks that’s not a good idea right now,” he commented on Pelosi’s travel plans.
MEPs Galler and Butekover plan to visit Taiwan later this year
Meanwhile, EU diplomats are concerned about the situation. In light of China’s threats, MEPs Michael Gahler (CDU) and Reinhard Butekofer (the Greens), who specialize in Taiwan and China, have called for solidarity with Taiwan and wish to visit the island this year.
Also in the European Union, “Parliament is the driving force in Taiwan policy.” But the executive branch, who heads the European Parliament’s delegation on relations with China, said the executive branch is acting more cautiously about the disagreement between Pelosi and President Joe Biden over whether it was a good idea to plan their visit or an unnecessary provocation.
Gahler sees no immediate danger to war. China is not ready for war. He observes whether the West in Ukraine is rolling back Russia or stopping aggression. He is the European People’s Party foreign policy spokesman in the European Parliament and president of the 'Formosa Club’, the parliamentary friendship groups for democracy with Taiwan.
Gahler and Butekover are calling for an investment agreement between the European Union and Taiwan. The European Union negotiated a trade agreement with China. It is suspended due to political differences. The investment agreement gives European companies better market access in Taiwan, and the establishment of a Taiwanese semiconductor plant in the European Union is becoming more likely. They will discuss this with the Trade Committee of the European Parliament in Taiwan in December.
Gahler and Butekover caution against moving away from the „one China” policy. The status quo must be defended. Diplomatic recognition of Taiwan is out of the question. „But Europe must not back down when Beijing moves the red lines,” Bütikofer says.
„A pragmatic partnership with Taiwan makes sense for us.” The „panic” about Pelosi’s visit reflects „Xi Jinping’s growing nationalist focus.” China wants to dictate Taiwan policy to the United States, Japan and Europe. „Giving up would be a mistake.”
The United States, in turn, has committed to Taiwan’s ability to defend itself – which so far has essentially meant handing over weapons. However, President Joe Biden has gone further than his predecessors and has repeatedly described it as a US „obligation” to defend Taiwan in the event it comes under attack from China. Tensions over Taiwan have not been this high since the 1990s. (with dpa, Reuters)