Tuesday, as Nancy Pelosi, the speaker of the US House, started her contentious visit to the self-governing island that Beijing claims as its own, more than 20 Chinese military aircraft flew into Taiwan’s air defence zone, according to officials in Taipei.
The air defence identification zone, or ADIZ, was breached by 21 PLA aircraft on August 2, 2022, according to a tweet from the island’s defence minister.
The ADIZ is larger than Taiwan’s territorial airspace, overlapping with areas of China’s own air defence identification zone and even extending into parts of the mainland.
Tuesday night, Pelosi arrived in Taiwan, defying a series of dire warnings and threats from China that have raised tensions between the two heavyweights of the world.
She is the highest-profile elected US official to visit Taiwan in 25 years and is second in line to the presidency. Beijing has made it clear that it views her presence as a serious provocation, which has put the region on edge.
The 82-year-old congressman, who travelled on a US military plane, was welcomed at Taipei’s Songshan Airport by foreign minister Joseph Wu, as shown on live broadcasts.
She said in a statement upon her arrival that her visit “in no way undermines” US policy towards Taiwan and Beijing and “honours America’s unshakable commitment to support Taiwan’s vibrant democracy.”
Taiwan said that Washington’s backing was “rock strong” as evidenced by the visit.
Pelosi is now travelling in Asia, and while neither she nor her staff have confirmed a trip to Taipei, numerous US and Taiwanese media sites have reported that one is planned, setting off days of building resentment in Beijing.
In response to the visit, China’s military announced it would “launch a series of targeted military strikes” and was on “high alert.”
It quickly made plans public for a series of military drills to start on Wednesday in the waters surrounding the island, including “long-range live ammo fire” in the Taiwan Strait.
Beijing’s foreign ministry added, “Those who play with fire will perish by it.”
No need for ‘crisis’
China has promised to one day annex the island, using force if necessary, and regards democratic, self-governing Taiwan as part of its territory.
It opposes nations having diplomatic exchanges with Taipei and works to keep Taiwan isolated on the international scene.
Chinese President Xi Jinping cautioned Washington against “playing with fire” on Taiwan during a phone discussion with US President Joe Biden last week.
Although a trip in Taiwan is reportedly opposed by the Biden administration, Pelosi is free to travel wherever she pleases, according to White House National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby.
“There is no justification for this to turn violent. There is no modification to our strategy “Shortly after Pelosi arrived, he said CNN.
Newt Gingrich, the then-Speaker of the US House of Representatives, last travelled to Taiwan in 1997.
Kirby reaffirmed that US policy toward Taiwan had not changed.
This entails backing its self-governing government while diplomatically recognising Beijing as Taipei’s superior and opposing either a formal declaration of independence by Taiwan or a coercive takeover by China.
Moscow declared that it was “completely in solidarity with China” and described the idea of a Pelosi visit as “pure provocation.”
China has refrained from denouncing Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and has been accused of acting as the Kremlin’s diplomatic front by criticising Western sanctions and weaponry transfers to Kiev.
All eyes on Taiwan
After meeting with the foreign minister Saifuddin Abdullah and prime minister Ismail Sabri of Malaysia, Pelosi left Kuala Lumpur on Tuesday.
On FlightRadar, there were so many people following the US military plane carrying her that the service reported some users were experiencing problems.
Before ascending the Philippine east coast, the aircraft took a detour that avoided the South China Sea, which Beijing claims.
Press coverage of Pelosi has been strictly controlled and has only included a few brief statements confirming talks with authorities.
Although South Korea and Japan are on her itinerary, the thought of visiting Taiwan captured everyone’s interest.
Although Taipei’s administration remained mute over her visitation plans, information started slipping out.
Tuesday night, an hour before Pelosi’s flight arrived, the words “Speaker Pelosi… Thank You” were illuminated atop the city’s iconic Taipei 101 building.
‘Seek to punish Taiwan’
The 23 million residents of Taiwan have long faced the prospect of invasion, but it has grown more pressing under Xi, China’s most forceful leader in a generation.
Before the visit, Wang Ting-yu, a politician from the ruling Democratic Progressive Party, told AFP that “Beijing shouldn’t get to decide who can visit Taiwan or how the US should interact with Taiwan.”
“I believe that China’s overt intimidation is ineffective.”
According to Bonnie Glaser, director of the German Marshall Fund’s Asia programme, it is “low likely” that Beijing will decide to go to war.
She stated on Twitter that there is a “not insignificant likelihood” that China will take a number of military, economic, and diplomatic measures to demonstrate its resolve and power.
China has reportedly stopped importing various Taiwanese products, including some fishery products, tea, and honey, according to Taipei’s Council of Agriculture on Tuesday. According to the council, China alleged legal transgressions.
A rush of military action across the region has preceded Pelosi’s probable visit, highlighting how explosive the Taiwan issue is.