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The plane carrying House Speaker Nancy Pelosi landed at 22.43 local time (14.43 GMT) at Taipei’s Songshan Airport, kicking off a visit against which Beijing had announced retaliation.
Upon her arrival — after a seven-hour trip that began in Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia) and in which she dodged the South China Sea and flew over Indonesia and the Philippines — Pelosi was received by the island’s Foreign Minister Joseph Wu Chao-hsieh and by the director of the U.S. Taiwan Institute, Sandra Oudkirk.
Pelosi stated on her Twitter account minutes after landing that her visit honors the United States’ unwavering commitment to supporting Taiwan’s vibrant democracy.
She added that her trip does not contradict long-held U.S. foreign policy and that the United States opposes unilateral efforts to alter the status quo.
Neither Pelosi nor Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs had confirmed whether the official’s Asia tour would include a visit to Taiwan, a possibility advanced by Taiwanese media.
This is the first visit by a Speaker of the House of Representatives to Taiwan since 1997, when Republican Newt Gingrich visited the island.
On Tuesday night, shortly before Pelosi’s plane landed, Taipei’s tallest skyscraper, Taipei 101, was lit up with messages addressed to the U.S. official such as “Welcome to Taiwan,” “Thank you to our democratic friend,” “The friendship between the United States and Taiwan will always be firm,” and “Let us protect the international order together.”
For their part, lawmakers from the island expressed their welcome to the Speaker of the House of Representatives: “The visit will enhance Taiwan’s faith in the U.S. commitment to its security,” said Lo Chih-cheng of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and quoted in local media.
Her party colleague Wang Ting-yu said Pelosi’s presence on the island “will prove that the U.S.-Taiwan alliance can withstand pressure from China” and predicted that possible military intimidation by Beijing will demonstrate its “quarrelsome” nature to the international community.
Shortly before Pelosi’s arrival in Taiwan, Chinese state media reported the crossing of the Taiwan Strait by Chinese SU-35 military aircraft, with no further details provided so far.
This Tuesday, the Chinese Foreign Ministry assured that it is “difficult to imagine a more reckless and provocative action” on the part of the United States than this visit, about which the Chinese Army already warned recently that it would not “stand idly by”.
China claims sovereignty over the island and considers Taiwan a rebel province since the Kuomintang nationalists withdrew there in 1949, after losing the civil war against the communists.