US house speaker lands in Taiwan despite China’s threat of ‘serious consequences’

Pelosi is the most senior American elected official to visit Taiwan in more than 25 years.

It is feared the visit could significantly escalate tensions with Beijing, which claims the self-ruled island as its own territory, and has vowed to retaliate, but gave no details.

This handout photo, taken and released by Malaysia’s Ministry of Information, US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, center, takes a tour of the parliament building in Kuala Lumpur, Tuesday, August 2, 2022. Pelosi arrived in Malaysia on Tuesday for the second leg of a Asian tour clouded by an expected stop in Taiwan, escalating tensions with Beijing. (Malaysia Department of Information via AP) (AP)

Speculation focused on impending military exercises and possible incursions by Chinese aircraft and ships into areas under Taiwanese control.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said Washington’s “betrayal” over the Taiwan issue “undermines its national credibility”.

“Some US politicians are playing with fire on the Taiwan issue,” Wang said in a statement.

“This is certainly not going to have a good outcome… the exposure of America’s plague face once again shows it as the world’s greatest saboteur of peace.”

Pelosi’s Asian tour this week was closely watched to see if she would defy China’s warnings against visiting the island republic, a close US ally.

A plane carrying the speaker and her delegation took off from Malaysia on Tuesday after a brief stop for a working lunch with Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, left, meets Malaysian Parliament Speaker Azhar Azizan Harun (Malaysia’s Department of Information via AP) (AP)

The Taiwanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs declined to comment. Prime Minister Su Tseng-chang did not explicitly confirm Pelosi’s visit, but said on Tuesday that “all foreign guests and friendly lawmakers” are “very welcome”.

Barricades were erected outside the Grand Hyatt Hotel in Taipei, where Pelosi was expected to remain under heightened security. Two buildings in the capital lit LED displays with welcome words, including the iconic Taipei 101 building, which read, “Welcome to Taiwan, Speaker Pelosi.”

China, which sees Taiwan as a renegade province to be forcibly annexed if necessary, has repeatedly warned of retaliation if Pelosi visits, saying its military will “never stand by.”

Chinese security personnel guard an entrance to the US embassy in Beijing. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan) (AP)

“The US and Taiwan have conspired to make provocations first, and China has been forced to act only in self-defense,” China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Hua Chunying told reporters in Beijing on Tuesday.

Hua said China was in constant contact with the US and made clear “how dangerous it would be if the visit actually takes place”.

Any countermeasures China took would be “justified and necessary” in light of Washington’s “unscrupulous behavior”.

Shortly before Pelosi was due to arrive, Chinese state media said Chinese SU-35 fighter jets were crossing the Taiwan Strait, the body of water that separates mainland China and Taiwan. It was not immediately clear where they were going or what they intended to do.

Chinese naval forces have held regular military exercises in waters off Taiwan in recent years. (AP)

Unspecified hackers launched a cyber attack on the Taiwanese presidential office website, making it temporarily unavailable on Tuesday night. The presidential office said the website was restored shortly after the attack, causing it to become flooded with traffic.

“China thinks that by launching a multi-domain pressure campaign against Taiwan, the people of Taiwan *(sic) will be intimidated. But they are wrong,” Wang Ting-yu, a lawmaker with the Democratic Progressive Party, said on Twitter in response to the attack.

Visit makes Chinese markets tumble

Global markets fell Tuesday as investors’ visit could seriously escalate tensions with China.

Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index fell a whopping 3.2 percent in the morning, but capped losses to 2.4 percent at close. The Shanghai Composite Index in mainland China ended 2.3 percent lower. Taiwan’s Taiex closed 1.6 percent lower.

Japan’s Nikkei 225 lost 1.4 percent and Korea’s Kospi 0.5 percent.

China accuses US of ‘navigation bullying’

European stocks also started weak on Tuesday. Germany’s DAX and France’s CAC 40 fell 0.5 percent and 0.4 percent, respectively, while London’s FTSE 100 fell 0.1 percent.

The Taiwan dollar weakened 0.1 percent against the US dollar. Meanwhile, the Japanese yen, a traditional safe-haven currency, gained 0.6 percent against the greenback.

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