Tensions between the US and China have increased over speculation that US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi may visit Taiwan.
Seemingly as a warning to Washington, China’s military conducted live ammunition exercises near Taiwan on Saturday. As the authorities announced, parts of Fujian province’s waters were blocked. The area lies north of the Taiwan Strait, which separates mainland China and the island republic of Taiwan.
In the announcement of the trip, which starts Sunday, Pelosi left open whether she would stop in Taiwan. Only stations in Singapore, Malaysia, South Korea and Japan were mentioned. Media reports, citing those around her that she was also considering a visit to Taiwan, were not commented on. China has vigorously warned about this and threatened consequences. The 82-year-old top Democratic politician is number three in the United States after the president and his vice president.
“Today, our Congressional delegation travels to the Indo-Pacific region to reaffirm America’s strong and unwavering commitment to our allies and friends in the region,” Pelosi said. The politician is accompanied by parliamentarians. The focus is on “mutual security, economic partnership and democratic governance in the Indo-Pacific region,” he said.
Luftwaffe flies patrols
China’s military tried to increase the pressure. The Air Force flew patrols near Taiwan. Spokesperson Shen Jinke stressed that the Air Force “has the firm will, complete confidence and sufficient capacity to defend China’s national sovereignty and territorial integrity,” as quoted by the party’s People’s Daily newspaper. The United States sent the USS Ronald Reagan aircraft carrier to the South China Sea last week. The US military spoke of a long-planned trip and a “routine patrol”.
The communist leadership considers free Taiwan to be part of the People’s Republic and wants to isolate it internationally. On the other hand, the island republic of 23 million people has long considered itself independent. Since the Russian invasion of Ukraine, fears of conquest by China have been growing. The United States has committed to Taiwan’s ability to defend itself – which until now has mostly meant arms deliveries.
Foreign politicians as provocation
China’s leadership sees foreign politicians’ visits to Taiwan as a provocation. Beijing has threatened serious consequences if Democrat Pelosi visits Taiwan. In a phone call with US President Joe Biden on Thursday, head of state and party leader Xi Jinping warned his colleague: “Those who play with fire will perish.” Biden reacted cautiously to reports of his visit to Taiwan: “I don’t think the military thinks it’s a good idea right now.”
Recently, a number of US and EU parliamentary delegations visited Taiwan, including Nicola Beer (FDP), vice president of the EU Parliament last week. While Beijing left him with verbal warnings, a visit by the US high representative would have another political quality.