House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and several other members of Congress landed in Taiwan late on Tuesday for a much-anticipated visit that prompted China’s military to announce “targeted” military operations in the seas and airspace surrounding the island.
Pelosi is the highest-ranking elected U.S. official to visit Taiwan since then-Speaker Newt Gingrich in 1997. While a significant visit, several delegations of senior U.S. and European lawmakers have also made trips to Taipei in recent years.
She was received at Taipei’s Songshan Airport by Taiwanese Foreign Minister Joseph Wu and Sandra Oudkirk, director of the American Institute in Taiwan, the U.S.’s de facto embassy on the island.
The stop in Taiwan was not featured in the official itinerary of a sweep through Asia by the 82-year-old lawmaker. A spokesperson for Taiwan’s presidential office said Pelosi would meet President Tsai Ing-wen on Wednesday morning, followed by a lunch. Taiwan’s official news agency said Pelosi would visit Taiwan’s parliament the same day.
“Our congressional delegation’s visit to Taiwan honors America’s unwavering commitment to supporting Taiwan’s vibrant democracy,” Pelosi’s delegation said in a statement after she landed. “Our visit is one of several congressional delegations to Taiwan — and it in no way contradicts long-standing United States policy… The United States continues to oppose unilateral efforts to change the status quo.”
China’s Foreign Ministry said the visit seriously violated the “One China” principle, which is Beijing’s view that it has sovereignty over the mainland, Hong Kong, Macao, and Taiwan.
“It has a severe impact on the political foundation of China-U.S. relations, and seriously infringes upon China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity,” it said in a statement. “It gravely undermines peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait, and sends a seriously wrong signal to the separatist forces for ‘Taiwan independence.’ China firmly opposes and sternly condemns this, and has made serious demarche and strong protest to the United States.”
China’s Defense Ministry said Beijing would launch a series of “targeted military operations” to counteract Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan.
Pelosi started her Asia tour in Singapore on Monday, and visited Malaysia on Tuesday. She will go on to South Korea and Japan. A statement at the weekend said the delegation would discuss trade, the pandemic, climate change, security and “democratic governance.”