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United States House Speaker Nancy Pelosi landed in Taiwan on Tuesday and became the highest-ranking American official to visit the island in 25 years – despite threats from China and fears of a potential skirmish between Washington and Beijing in the Asia-Pacific region, the Associated Press reported.
Pelosi’s visit is part of a tour of Asia, a trip that has raised tensions between the US and China ahead of her visit to the island. Beijing – which considers Taiwan as part of its territory – had warned of “resolute and strong measures” if Pelosi went ahead with the trip.
Tuesday, China’s Defense Ministry said it will conduct a series of targeted military operations to “safeguard national sovereignty,” drills Taiwan said amounted to a blockade of the island. Also, China moved to halt some exports to the country.
Shortly after her arrival, some Chinese officials criticized the visit as a severe violation of the “One China principle,” Beijing’s claim to be the sole government of both mainland China and Taiwan. Chinese leader Xi Jinping has vowed to “reunify” Taiwan by force if necessary.
In 1949, Taiwan and China split after the Communists won a civil war on the mainland. Even though the US acknowledges Beijing as China’s government, it maintains informal relations and defense ties with Taiwan.
Beijing, however, views US contact with Taiwan as encouragement to make the island’s decades-long de facto independence permanent, a measure that American officials say they oppose. Still, Pelosi said after she landed in Taiwan that her Congressional delegation underscores the US commitment to Taiwan’s “vibrant democracy.”
Meanwhile, the visit has sparked worries in the region over a potential clash between US and Chinese warships as they both vie for influence in the region.
Leaders in Singapore and Japan underscored the importance of stable US-China ties, while Philippine officials urged the two superpowers to be “responsible actors” in the region.