China responds to Pelosi visit with war games in Taiwan waters

Beijing, Aug 2 (EFE).- The Chinese army announced large-scale military exercises around Taiwan not long after a plane landed in Taipei late Tuesday carrying the speaker of the United States House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, who defied stern warnings from Beijing of “disastrous repercussions” if she made the trip.

Pelosi, the third-highest ranking US politician, is the most senior American official to set foot on the island in 25 years.

Her visit – which was not included in her official itinerary but which had been widely anticipated – has spiked tensions with China, which views Taiwan as a breakaway province.

Shortly after she landed, Chinese SU-35 military aircraft were confirmed to be crossing the Taiwan Strait, Chinese state media said.

Images from the airport in Taipei showed Pelosi emerging from a US Air Force plane and being met by a small Taiwanese delegation.

Pelosi, who is on a tour of Asia that has seen her make stops in Singapore, Malaysia with planned visits to South Korea and Japan, is leading a congressional delegation to Taiwan.

In doing so, the delegation “honors our commitment to democracy: reaffirming that the freedoms of Taiwan – and all democracies – must be respected,” Pelosi said in a tweet.

In an op-ed piece published by the Washington Post immediately after she landed, Pelosi said the “visit should be seen as an unequivocal statement that America stands with Taiwan, our democratic partner, as it defends itself and its freedom.”

Pelosi also insisted that hers is “one of several” congressional delegations to Taiwan and “in no way contradicts long standing United States policy” that recognizes the “One China” principle.

Ahead of the trip, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi condemned Washington’s “deplorable betrayal,” warning that the behavior shown by the US “will damage its credibility at the international level.”

“The One China principle is a consensus of the international community” and the “political foundation of China’s relations with other countries,” Wang said.

The principle is a “red line” for the Asian giant, he added.

China’s military and civilian officials warned of consequences if Pelosi visited the island.

Tensions across the Taiwan Strait have escalated dramatically with increased military activities from the Chinese and Taiwanese sides.

Beijing has previously responded to visits by foreign officials with an increased number of air sorties into Taiwan’s air defense identification zone.

The spokesperson for the People’s Liberation Army Eastern Theater Command, Col. Shi Yi said shortly after Pelosi’s arrival in Taipei that the command “will conduct a series of joint military operations around Taiwan Island, and conduct joint air and sea exercises in the sea and airspaces of the northern, southwestern, and southeastern Taiwan Islands.”

“This action is targeted at the US’ shocking recent major escalation on the Taiwan issue and serves as a serious warning to ‘Taiwan independence’ forces or those seeking ‘independence,'” the colonel said.

In a statement, Taiwan’s defense ministry said Tuesday that its military was prepared to send “appropriate armed forces according to the threat.”

“The military is determined, confident, and capable of ensuring national security,” it added. EFE lcl-aa/ks/mp/dr

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