Pelosi gives strong backing to Taiwan's democracy; US braces for Chinese military drills

WASHINGTON – House Speaker Nancy Pelosi highlighted strong support for Taiwan as she wrapped her visit Wednesday, while China announced it would conduct live-fire military drills in response to her controversial trip to the self-governed island. 

Pelosi, who met with Taiwan's top leaders then departed, addressed threats from Beijing, saying she hopes it’s clear that while China has prevented Taiwan from attending certain international meetings, "that they understand they will not stand in the way of people coming to Taiwan as a show of friendship and of support.”

“Our congressional delegation’s visit should be seen as a strong statement that America stands with Taiwan," Pelosi said in a statement Wednesday. "We came to Taiwan to listen to, learn from and show our support for the people of Taiwan, who have built a thriving democracy that stands as one of the freest and most open in the world."

During a short speech in a meeting with Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen, Pelosi said she and other members of the U.S. congressional delegation would uphold their commitment to the self-governing island.

“Today, the world faces a choice between democracy and autocracy,” she said. “America’s determination to preserve democracy, here in Taiwan and around the world, remains ironclad.”

Taiwan denounced China's planned drills, saying they violate its sovereignty and equate to the "sealing off" of the island "by air and sea."

Hua Chunying, a spokesperson for China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, wrote on Twitter Wednesday: "China will do everything necessary to firmly defend our sovereignty and territorial integrity. What needs to be done will be done. These measures will be resolute, strong and effective and will be continuously felt."

U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi waves to journalists during her arrival at the Parliament in Taipei, Taiwan, on Aug. 3, 2022.

The latest:

  • Pelosi honored: Tsai, thanking Pelosi for her decades of support for Taiwan, presented the speaker with a civilian honor, the Order of the Propitious Clouds.
  • Beijing bites back: The trip has roiled the Chinese government, which warned that Pelosi was "playing with fire" and said it views the trip as “a serious violation” of the one-China policy the U.S. has pledged to adhere to.
  • No change in policy: In Washington, the Biden administration stressed that its policy toward Taiwan has not changed. Pelosi echoed that sentiment in an op-ed that published after she had landed.
  • 25 years later: Pelosi is the first House speaker to visit Taiwan in a quarter century. Then-House Speaker Newt Gingrich, a Republican, visited in 1997.
A U.S. government plane carrying Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi takes off from Taipei Songshan Airport on Aug. 3, 2022, in Taipei, Taiwan. Pelosi arrived in Taiwan on Tuesday as part of a tour of Asia aimed at reassuring allies in the region, as China made it clear that her visit to Taiwan would be seen in a negative light.

Top takeaways

Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan comes as tension between the United States and China continues to rise. And the White House has walked a tightrope in responding to the House speaker’s trip.

John Kirby, the strategic coordinator for the National Security Council, said Tuesday that Pelosi’s trip is “totally consistent” with United States policy. However, when asked whether the White House agrees with Pelosi’s statement that America stands with Taiwan, Kirby said he will “let the speaker speak for herself.”

“Nothing has changed about our adherence to the One China policy,” Kirby said. “Nothing has changed about our stance on Taiwan independence, which is that we do not support Taiwan independence."

China's official Xinhua News Agency announced the military actions Tuesday night, along with a map outlining six different areas around Taiwan. Arthur Zhin-Sheng Wang, a defense studies expert at Taiwan’s Central Police University, said three of the areas infringe on Taiwanese waters, meaning they are within 12 nautical miles off shore. moving this down

Kirby said the White House expects Beijing's response to unfold  “over a longer term horizon” beyond Pelosi’s trip, noting additional large-scale live fire exercises and economic coercion. 

"The United States will not seek and does not want a crisis," Kirby said. “We are prepared to manage what Beijing chooses to do. At the same time, we will not engage in saber-rattling.” 

“We will continue to operate in the seas, in the skies of the Western Pacific as we have done for decades,” he continued. “We will continue to support Taiwan, defend a free and open Indo-Pacific and seek to maintain communication with Beijing..”

What they are saying

  • “Madam Speaker’s visit to Taiwan with the delegation, without fear, is the strongest defense of upholding human rights and consolidation of the values of democracy and freedom,” Tsai Chi-chang, vice president of Taiwan’s legislature, said in welcoming Pelosi.
  • "He respects the speaker's decision to travel to Taiwan," Kirby said of Biden on Tuesday.
  • China's Defense Ministry said Pelosi "insisted on making the wrong move, maliciously provoking and creating the crisis."
  • Pelosi wrote in a op-ed in the Washington Post that the visit by U.S. lawmakers "in no way contradicts the long-standing one-China policy."
  • "Our visit reiterates that America stands with Taiwan: a robust, vibrant democracy and our important partner in the Indo-Pacific," she said in a tweet.
  • Sen. Bob Menendez, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, in an op-ed, highlighted Pelosi's visit as a reason Congress should pass a bipartisan bill that restructures U.S. policy toward Taiwan. He said Beijing may use Pelosi's visit as "a pretext for more aggressive steps that China has been preparing to take anyway. That is why Ms. Pelosi was right in not letting China decide who can and cannot visit Taiwan."
  • Chunying, China's foreign ministry spokesperson, accused Pelosi of trying to “undermine China’s stability."
  • “This exposes her sinister motive of using human rights as a pretext to interfere in other countries’ internal affairs, undermine China’s stability and containing China’s development,” Chunying wrote on Twitter.

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Contributing: Rebecca Morin, Associated Press