China prepares for military drills near Taiwan after Pelosi visit

US House speaker is highest-ranking American politician to visit Taipei in 25 years

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Taiwan struck a defiant tone as it hosted US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi this week, as a furious China geared up for military exercises near the island's shores in retaliation for the visit.

Ms Pelosi departed Taiwan on Wednesday after a two-day visit to Taipei that sparked increasingly stark threats from China — which views the island as part of its territory — and said it considered the visit a major provocation.

In response to the visit, China began to prepare for what it said were “necessary and just” military drills in the seas off the Taiwanese coast — some of the world's busiest waterways.

Beijing summoned the US ambassador, Nicholas Burns, over Ms Pelosi's visit, while the Chinese military declared it was on “high alert” and would “launch a series of targeted military actions in response”.

The drills will include “long-range live ammunition shooting” in the Taiwan Strait.

“In the current struggle surrounding Pelosi's Taiwan visit, the United States are the provocateurs, China is the victim,” the country's foreign ministry said.

But Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen said the island of 23 million would not be cowed.

“Facing deliberately heightened military threats, Taiwan will not back down. We will … continue to hold the line of defence for democracy,” Ms Tsai said during a meeting with Ms Pelosi in Taipei.

Earlier on Wednesday, Ms Pelosi reaffirmed Washington's support for Taiwan during her visit to Taipei.

“We will not abandon our commitment to Taiwan and we are proud of our enduring friendship,” Ms Pelosi said.

“Now more than ever, American solidarity with Taiwan is crucial. That is the message we are bringing here today.”

The California Democrat’s arrival in Taiwan late on Tuesday, which led to China's announcement of new trade bans and military drills, made her the highest-ranking American official to visit the island in 25 years.

Ms Tsai said Ms Pelosi’s visit was an example of the staunch international support for Taiwan.

Chinese President Xi Jinping told his US counterpart Joe Biden last week that he would “resolutely safeguard China’s national sovereignty and territorial integrity” and that “whoever plays with fire will get burnt”.

Shortly after Ms Pelosi landed on Tuesday, China said it would “take all necessary measures” to defend its territory and that “all consequences must be borne by the US and the Taiwan independence forces”.

The White House has sought to reduce rising tension with China, emphasising that Congress is an independent branch of government.

Under an agreement reached in 1978 to normalise relations between China and the US, Washington agreed to recognise Beijing as the sole seat of China’s government, while acknowledging — but not endorsing — the Chinese position that there is but one China and that Taiwan is part of it.

The US has insisted that any unification between the island and the mainland must be peaceful.

It has supplied Taiwan with advanced weaponry while remaining deliberately ambiguous about whether US forces would help it to defend itself against a Chinese attack.

Ms Pelosi's delegation left Taiwan en route to South Korea, her next stop on an Asia tour that has included visits to Singapore and Malaysia. She will wrap up her trip in Japan.

Updated: August 04, 2022, 3:31 AM