Taiwan’s official Central News Agency reported that the island’s military forces had reinforced their preparations Tuesday morning and said they would remain at a “strengthened” state of readiness through midday Thursday.
Pelosi is expected to arrive in Taiwan on Tuesday night, local time, according to a person familiar with arrangements for the visit. Taiwanese media reported that Pelosi was expected to meet with President Tsai Ing-wen and lawmakers on Wednesday.
White House warns China not to overreact to expected Pelosi visit to Taiwan
Pelosi’s impending visit has enraged China, which for years has sought to diplomatically isolate Taiwan and views such exchanges with high-level foreign dignitaries as support for the island’s formal independence. The ruling Communist Party claims Taiwan as its territory despite never having governed there. Chinese leader Xi Jinping has pledged to “reunify” Taiwan with China by force if necessary.
On Tuesday, Chinese maritime authorities announced additional military exercises in South China Sea and live-fire drills in the Bohai Sea, near the Korean Peninsula, this week. Reuters reported, citing an unnamed source, that Chinese fighter jets Tuesday flew close to the median line of the Taiwan Strait, the unofficial military boundary. Chinese carrier Xiamen Airlines, meanwhile, announced disruptions to 30 flights on Tuesday as a result of air traffic controls in Fujian, the Chinese province directly across the strait from Taiwan.
Earlier, the White House warned that China may fire missiles into the Taiwan Strait or near Taiwan or send military jets across the median line.
The situation poses a test for Xi, who faces a balancing act in responding forcefully but in a way that does not trigger an all-out conflict as he prepares for a crucial leadership meeting in the fall.
“Xi must show resolve. He has to shore up Chinese red lines and prevent further drift toward an unacceptable outcome: US support for Taiwan independence,” said Bonnie Glaser, director of the Asia Program at the German Marshall Fund.
Pelosi began her trip to Asia on Sunday and did not include Taiwan on her official itinerary. Beijing has repeatedly warned that it would retaliate against what it sees as interference in an internal matter.
“The Chinese side is fully prepared for any eventuality and the People’s Liberation Army of China will never sit idly by,” Zhao Lijian, spokesperson for the Chinese Foreign Ministry, said Monday in a press briefing. “Those who play with fire will perish by it,” he said.
Administration fears a Pelosi trip to Taiwan could spark cross-strait crisis
China’s UN Ambassador Zhang Jun, speaking at a news conference Monday, called the visit “dangerous and provocative.”
Joanne Ou, spokesperson for Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said in a briefing Tuesday that the ministry had no information about Pelosi’s visit but that the House Speaker would be welcome.
“Our government always welcomes the international friends to visit Taiwan, enhance their understanding of Taiwan, and demonstrate their support,” she said.
Regardless of the intensifying tensions over Pelosi’s expected visit, residents say that Taiwan has benefited from the attention.
“Taiwan will be the biggest winner. When did Taiwan become a major focus of US politics and midterm elections?” said Fan Shih-ping, professor at the Graduate Institute of Political Science of National Taiwan Normal University. “The Taiwan issue has become completely internationalized, which is the last thing China and Xi Jinping want to see.”
Pelosi has been a longtime critic of China’s human rights record and has spoken out in support of demonstrators in Hong Kong protesting against Beijing’s crackdown on the city. Reuters reported that Pelosi would meet with a group of human rights activists in Taiwan.
“She knows what had happened in Hong Kong, and she knows that many Hong Kong protesters who are fleeing from the Communist Party will come to Taiwan,” said Lam Wing-kee, a former Hong Kong bookseller who was detained in China and is now living in Taipei.
Lam said he was invited to attend an event Wednesday with the American Institute in Taiwan, the de facto US embassy, but was not told if Pelosi would attend. “This would be a show of support to the resistance of the Hong Kong people,” he said of the speaker’s looming visit.
Vic Chiang and Pei-Lin Wu in Taipei contributed to this report.