Democrat House Speaker Nancy Pelosi left Taiwan after a visit that has inflamed U.S. tensions with China – which is retaliating with its largest military exercises in over 25 years in what experts have warned could be “considered an act of war.” The 82-year-old California Democrat and her delegation left Taipei after a 19-hour visit, the first by a House speaker in 25 years.
Here’s the news video of Pelosi’s departure:
The trip by Pelosi had infuriated mainland China so much that the country’s most popular social media platform, Weibo, crashed for roughly 30 minutes, confirming that it was overloaded as several hashtags accumulated several billion views. “This old she-devil, she actually dares to come!” the popular blogger Xiaoyuantoutiao wrote, claiming that they went to bed “so angry that I could not sleep”.
But the online anger was small compared to that of the government in Beijing, which considers Taiwan part of its sovereign territory and issued a series of ominous threats while making it clear that the speaker’s visit would be seen as a major provocation. Even before the arrival of Pelosi, Chinese warplanes buzzed the imaginary line separating the Taiwan Strait, with the People’s Liberation Army declaring that it was on high alert and would initiate “targeted military operations.”
After the landing of Nancy Pelosi, China announced it would hold four days of “necessary and fair” joint air and sea exercises, the largest directed at Taiwan since 1995. The drills will consist of live fire and test launches of conventional missiles, according to the Chinese state news agency Xinhua. At least half of the six areas where the exercises are scheduled to take place appear to encroach on Taiwanese waters, according to Arthur Zhin-Sheng Wang, a defense studies expert at the Central Taiwan Police University. The use of live fire in a country’s airspace or territorial waters “can potentially be considered an act of war,” Wang warned.
“Such an act equals to sealing off Taiwan by air and sea … and severely violates our country’s territorial sovereignty,” Taiwanese Capt. Jian-chang Yu stated during a briefing by the National Defense Ministry. Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen emphasized that the island of 23 million people would not be intimidated. “Facing deliberately heightened military threats, Taiwan will not back down,” Tsai declared during her meeting with Pelosi. “We will firmly uphold our nation’s sovereignty and continue to hold the line of defense for democracy.” Nevertheless, the Foreign Ministry of China insisted: “In the current struggle surrounding Pelosi’s Taiwan visit, the United States are the provocateurs, China is the victim.”
Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Xie Feng has also summoned the U.S. ambassador in Beijing, Nicholas Burns, to formally protest against Pelosi’s visit, while China has banned certain imports from Taiwan, including citrus fruits and fish. Amid all this, Pelosi was defiant, saying she stood there to send the “unequivocal message that America will stand with Taiwan.” “America’s determination to preserve democracy, here in Taiwan and around the world, remains ironclad,” she said in a short speech during the meeting with Tsai.