(Update: adds Pelosi landing in Taiwan)
Beijing, Aug 2 (EFE).- Speaker of the United States House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, landed Tuesday night at Songshan airport in Taipei, defying multiple stern warnings from Beijing that her “reckless” visit to Taiwan would have “disastrous repercussions”.
Pelosi, the third-highest ranking US politician, is the most senior American official to visit 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 over which Beijing claims sovereignty.
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”.
In a thread on Twitter, she said “America’s solidarity with the 23 million people of Taiwan is more important today than ever, as the world faces a choice between autocracy and democracy.”
Pelosi also insisted that the visit 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, China’s foreign minister Wang Yi condemned the US’ “deplorable betrayal”, warning that the visit and 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, under which Beijing claims sovereignty over the self-governing island, is a “red line” for the Asian giant, he added.
His remarks followed similar statements by Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying, who said it was “hard to imagine anything more reckless and provocative than” Pelosi’s proposed trip to Taiwan.
The US mishandling the delicate situation, Hua said, would have “disastrous consequences,” not just for Taiwan but also for the “prosperity and security of the whole world.”
China’s military and civilian officials have warned of consequences if Pelosi visits the island, with Hua warning that the country would take “strong and resolute measures” to safeguard its sovereignty if the US Speaker carried on down the “wrong path” and that any countermeasures from Beijing would be “justified” in response to such an “unscrupulous behavior.”
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 or across the median line that divides the strait.
China has flown six fighter planes in the last two days close to the median line.