“We will not abandon our commitment to Taiwan and we are proud of our enduring friendship,” Pelosi said. “Now more than ever American solidarity with Taiwan is crucial,” she added. “That’s the message we’re bringing here today.”
Tsai said Pelosi’s visit showed Taiwan’s staunch international support in the face of a years-long international pressure campaign led by Beijing, which claims the island as its territory. “Facing deliberately heightened military threats, Taiwan will not back down,” Tsai said, after conferring an award on the visiting US lawmaker.
China has announced trade sanctions and its most provocative military drills in decades in the wake of Pelosi’s visit, which risks sparking a crisis between the world’s biggest economies. President Xi Jinping told President Joe Biden last week he would “resolutely safeguard China’s national sovereignty and territorial integrity” and that “whoever plays with fire will get burned.”
On Wednesday, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi called Pelosi’s trip a “complete farce” and warned “those who offend China will be punished.” Still, China’s failure to follow through on some of the more extreme measures proposed by nationalists to stop Pelosi from visiting Taiwan left some on the mainland disappointed.
Taiwanese shares closed 0.2% higher while China’s benchmark CSI 300 Index ended the day 1% lower. Pelosi’s US military plane left Taiwan at 6:01 p.m. local time, with her delegation scheduled to continue on to South Korea and then Japan.
The House speaker’s vow to stand by Taiwan comes against long-running uncertainty over whether Washington would come to Taipei’s aide to prevent an invasion by Beijing. The US has faced calls for a clearer commitment to defend Taiwan following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which American weapons deliveries helped slow but couldn’t prevent.
Andrew Gilholm, director of analysis for China and North Asia at Control Risks, said Pelosi’s pledge not to abandon Taiwan was “deliberately vague and rather meaningless.”
“It’s kind of a cost-free statement because it obviously doesn’t reflect administration policy or is a change of policy,” Gilholm said.
Taiwan faced cyber-attacks late Tuesday, with the presidential office saying it suffered a 20-minute barrage in the early evening hours that was 200 times worse than usual. The Taiwanese Defense Ministry denounced China’s drills as “armed intimidation” and pledged to respond at the appropriate time.
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John Kirby, spokesman for the National Security Council, said at a White House briefing that there was no reason “for Beijing to turn this trip, which is consistent with long-standing US policy, into some sort of crisis or use it as a pretext to increase aggressiveness and military activity in or around the Taiwan Strait.” The US had previously moved an aircraft carrier battle group into the region as part of what it said was a previously scheduled operation.
Pelosi’s trip is the most high-profile among a wave of “unofficial” visits by foreign leaders in recent years, despite successful Chinese efforts to lure away Taipei’s formal diplomatic partners and block it from participating in international organizations. The House speaker touted US legislation that would support the chip industry and said an economic agreement with the US and Taiwan was imminent.
“I just hope that it’s really clear that while China has stood in the way of Taiwan participating and going to certain meetings, that they understand that they will not stand in the way of people coming to Taiwan,” Pelosi said, adding that she didn’t want to see “anything happen to Taiwan by force.”
The White House has sought to dial back rising tensions with China, emphasizing that Congress is an independent branch of government. Pelosi is the highest-ranking American politician to visit Taiwan since then-House speaker Newt Gingrich did so in 1997. That came after the last major Taiwan crisis, when China similarly declared drills near Taiwan and lobbed missiles into the sea near its ports.
Under their 1978 agreement to normalize relations, the US recognized only Beijing as the seat of China’s government, while acknowledging — but not endorsing — the Chinese position that there is but one China and Taiwan is part of it.
The US has insisted that any unification between the island and mainland must be peaceful, and supplied Taiwan with advanced weaponry while remaining deliberately ambiguous about whether US forces would help defend against a Chinese attack. Biden said in May that Washington would intervene in such a crisis, before the White House later clarified he was referring to weapons sales done in accordance with existing agreements.
“Everyone will be extremely conscious of tensions and vigilant for any sudden moves,” Amanda Hsiao, a senior analyst at Crisis Group based in Taiwan, told Bloomberg Television. “This is a moment where all three sides have to tread cautiously to avoid dangerous encounter or misreading during what’s going to be extremely tense period of time.”