Pelosi: China cannot prevent US officials from visiting Taiwan

TOKYO –

US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said on Friday that China will not isolate Taiwan by preventing US officials from traveling there.

He made the remarks in Tokyo, the final leg of an Asia tour highlighted by a visit to Taiwan that angered China.

Pelosi, the first House Speaker to visit Taiwan in 25 years, said in Taipei on Wednesday that the United States’ commitment to democracy on the autonomous island and elsewhere “remains strong.”

Pelosi and five other members of Congress arrived in Tokyo Thursday night after visiting Singapore, Malaysia, Taiwan and South Korea.

China, which claims Taiwan and has threatened to annex it by force if necessary, called its visit to the island provocative and on Thursday began military exercises, including missile launches, in six areas surrounding Taiwan.


THIS IS A LAST MINUTE UPDATE. The previous AP story follows below.

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said on Friday that China’s military exercises targeting Taiwan pose a “serious problem” threatening regional peace and security after five ballistic missiles launched as part of the drills landed in the area. Japan’s exclusive economy.

Kishida, speaking after breakfast with US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her congressional delegation, said missile launches must “stop immediately.”

China, which claims Taiwan and has threatened to annex it by force if necessary, has called Pelosi’s visit earlier this week to the self-governing island a provocation and on Thursday began military exercises, including missile training, in six areas around Taiwan. of Taiwan, in what could be the largest since the mid-1990s.

In Taipei on Wednesday, Pelosi said the US commitment to democracy in Taiwan and elsewhere “remains strong.” She became the first House Speaker to visit the island in 25 years.

Japanese Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi said five missiles fell Thursday in Japan’s exclusive economic zone off Hateruma, an island far to the south of Japan’s main islands. He said Japan protested to China, saying the missiles “threaten Japan’s national security and the lives of the Japanese people, which we strongly condemn.”

Japanese Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi, attending a regional meeting in Cambodia, said China’s actions are “seriously affecting peace and stability in the region and the international community, and we demand the immediate suspension of military exercises.

In recent years, Japan has beefed up its defense capabilities and troop presence in southwestern Japan and on remote islands, including Okinawa, which is about 700 kilometers northeast of Taiwan. Many residents say they worry that their island could quickly become engulfed in any Taiwan conflict. Okinawa hosts most of the 50,000 US troops based in Japan under a bilateral security pact.

At breakfast on Friday, Pelosi and her congressional delegation also discussed their shared security concerns about China, North Korea and Russia, and pledged their commitment to working for peace and stability in Taiwan, Kishida said. Pelosi will also hold talks with his Japanese counterpart, House Speaker Hiroyuki Hosoda.

Japan and its key ally the United States have been pushing for new security and economic frameworks with other democracies in the Indo-Pacific region and Europe to counter China’s growing influence amid rising tensions between Beijing and Taipei.

Days before Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan, a group of top Japanese lawmakers, including former Defense Minister Shigeru Ishiba, visited the island and discussed regional security with Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen. Ishiba said that Japan, while working with the United States to prevent conflicts in the Indo-Pacific, wants a defense agreement with Taiwan.

On Thursday, foreign ministers from the Group of Seven industrialized countries issued a statement saying “there is no justification for using a visit as a pretext for aggressive military activity in the Taiwan Strait.” He said China’s “escalated response risks heightening tensions and destabilizing the region.”

China cited its discontent over the statement on the last-minute cancellation of talks between Chinese and Japanese foreign ministers on the sidelines of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations meeting in Cambodia on Thursday.

Pelosi held talks Thursday in South Korea, also a key US ally, which has stayed away from the Taiwan issue, ostensibly to avoid upsetting China, focusing instead on the growing nuclear threat from North Korea.

In recent years, South Korea has been struggling to strike a balance between the United States and China as their rivalry has deepened.

Chinese military exercises launched on Thursday involve its navy, air force and other departments and will last until Sunday. They include missile attacks on targets in the seas to the north and south of the island in an echo of the last major Chinese military exercises in 1995 and 1996 aimed at intimidating Taiwan’s leaders and voters.

Taiwan has put its military on alert and has conducted civil defense exercises, while the United States has numerous naval assets in the area.

China has also flown warplanes into Taiwan and blocked imports of its citrus and fish.

China sees the island as a breakaway province and views visits to Taiwan by foreign officials as recognition of its sovereignty.

The Biden and Pelosi administrations have said the United States remains committed to a so-called one-China policy, which recognizes Beijing as the government of China but allows informal relations and defense ties with Taipei. The administration discouraged, but did not prevent, Pelosi’s visit.

Pelosi has been a longtime advocate for human rights in China. She, along with other lawmakers, visited Beijing’s Tiananmen Square in 1991 to support democracy two years after a bloody military crackdown on protesters in the square.

As leader of the House of Representatives, Pelosi’s trip has raised tensions between the United States and China more than visits by other members of Congress. The last House Speaker to visit Taiwan was Newt Gingrich in 1997.

China and Taiwan, which split in 1949 after a civil war, have no official relations but do have multibillion-dollar trade ties.

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Associated Press writers Hyung-jin Kim in Seoul, South Korea, and Huizhong Wu in Taipei, Taiwan, contributed to this report.

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