Updated Aug 2, 2022 - World

Pelosi lands in Taiwan despite warnings from Beijing

Nancy Pelosi
Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi landed in Taiwan Tuesday despite threats from the Chinese government that there would be "serious consequences" for the visit.

Why it matters: Beijing claims sovereignty over Taiwan and reacts furiously to any gestures that seem to treat the self-governing island as an independent country. Pelosi, who is the most senior U.S. lawmaker to visit since 1997, tweeted that visit "honors America’s unwavering commitment to supporting Taiwan’s vibrant Democracy."

  • She made the trip, which had bipartisan support in Congress, despite President Biden cautioning publicly that the U.S. military felt it was "not a good idea right now."

Driving the news: The first leg of Pelosi's trip included meetings with leaders in Singapore on Monday. She was in Malaysia on Tuesday, before she jetted off to Taiwan. Her trip is also scheduled to include stops in Japan and South Korea. While she kept the potential Taiwan stop a mystery until the last minute, the White House was clearly bracing for the fallout.

  • National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby warned Monday that Beijing was "positioning itself" to respond with "military provocations," such as firing missiles into the Taiwan Strait or breaching Taiwan's Air Defense Identification Zone.
  • China has already announced military exercises in the South China Sea from Tuesday to Saturday.
  • Kirby stressed that Pelosi had "a right" to visit Taiwan and that it did not signal any change in U.S. policy.

The other side: Beijing says President Xi Jinping delivered a warning to Biden over Taiwan in their call on Thursday: "Those who play with fire will perish by it."

  • China's Foreign Ministry on Monday repeated its threat of "serious consequences," and spokesperson Zhao Lijian said China's military would "never sit idly by" in response to such "a gross interference in China’s internal affairs."
  • Chinese state media also went into hyperdrive ahead of the trip. Hu Xijin of the Global Times tabloid tweeted that the Chinese military had the right to "forcibly dispel Pelosi's plane" and "if ineffective, then shoot them down."
  • On Tuesday, China's Foreign Affairs Ministry condemned Pelosi's Taiwan visit in a statement, saying it "seriously infringes upon China's sovereignty and territorial integrity."
  • Between the lines: China is unlikely to take any action that endangers Pelosi or presents a real risk of war. But with President Xi Jinping about to seek a third term in office, "all the political incentives will point him towards erring on the side of muscularity in response,” said Ryan Hass, a Brookings fellow and former NSC director for China and Taiwan.

State of play: Beijing has been warning with growing vehemence in recent years that it will take control of Taiwan, by force if necessary.

  • Meanwhile, Biden has said three separate times that the U.S. has committed to defending Taiwan, even as the White House insists there's no change to the "strategic ambiguity" policy, under which the U.S. takes no explicit position on that issue.
  • In Thursday's call, Biden also reiterated that the U.S. maintains the "One China Policy," under which Washington neither rejects nor accepts Beijing's claims over Taiwan and does not recognize Taiwan's independence.
  • Despite the heightened tensions, many in Taipei appreciate the show of support from Pelosi, Axios' Bethany Allen-Ebrahimian reports. As Pelosi's plane arrived Tuesday, a large group of onlookers, including supporters, as well as some opposed to the trip, gathered outside the hotel in Taipei where she was expected to stay for the night.

What's next: Pelosi is expected to meet with Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen and other officials on Wednesday.

Go deeper: Chinese invasion of Taiwan may come sooner than expected

Editor's note: This is a developing story. Please check back for updates.

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