February 7, 2023

US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi praised Taiwan on Friday, pledged US solidarity and said her Asia journey, which led to unprecedented military exercises through an angry China, was never about changing the regional status quo.

Pelosi and a congressional delegation were in Japan on the final leg of an Asian journey with a brief and unannounced stop in Taiwan, the self-governed island Beijing considers its own — and prompted an outraged Beijing to conduct live fire drills in waters around Taiwan, with five missiles landing in Japan’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).

Her stop in Taiwan, the highest visit by a US official in 25 years, came as Tokyo, one of Washington’s closest allies, grew increasingly alarmed at China’s growing power in the Indo-Pacific and the possibility of Beijing taking military action. might take against Taiwan.

“We have said from the beginning that our representation here is not about changing the status quo in Taiwan or the region,” she told a news conference after meeting Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida.

“The Chinese government is not happy that our friendship with Taiwan is strong,” she added.

“It is bipartisan in the House and in the Senate, overwhelming support for peace and the status quo in Taiwan.”

China has condemned Pelosi’s trip, who took the delegation to Singapore, Malaysia and South Korea, as well as Taiwan and Japan.

The state broadcaster said the military exercises, which began Thursday – the day after Pelosi left Taiwan – and will end on Sunday, will be the largest conducted by China in the Taiwan Strait. During the exercises, shots were fired on the waters and in the airspace around the island.

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Japan said five of the nine missiles fired into its territory have landed in its exclusive economic zone (EEZ). Tokyo filed a diplomatic protest against the incident, which Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi called “unprecedented.”

Pelosi praised Taiwan’s democracy, economic successes and — in a veiled dig in China — its human rights record, noting the support of Taiwan, the first Asian government to allow same-sex marriage, for LGBTQ rights.

“The fact is, I’ve said it time and again, if we don’t speak out for human rights in China because of commercial interests, we lose all moral authority to speak out about human rights around the world,” she said.

“China has some contradictions – some progress in terms of uplifting people, some terrible things happening in terms of the Uyghurs. In fact, it has been labeled a genocide.”

Human rights groups accuse Beijing of abusing the Uyghur ethnic group in Xinjiang, allegations China rejects. House Foreign Affairs Committee Chair Delegate Gregory Meeks was even more blunt.

“They certainly don’t want us to keep talking about what’s happening in Xinjiang (with) the Uyghurs,” he said. “We’re going to speak out and speak out for human rights, human dignity and democratic process. That’s what this trip was about.”

Concerned ally, keeping peace

Earlier, Pelosi met with Kishida, who later said they would work together to maintain peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait, a major shipping route. Japan, whose southernmost islands are closer to Taiwan than Tokyo, has warned that Chinese harassment of Taiwan poses an escalating threat to national security.

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Tensions between Japan and China also escalated on Thursday when China announced that a meeting between the two countries’ foreign ministers, set to take place on the sidelines of an ASEAN meeting in Cambodia, had been canceled amid its displeasure over a Declaration of the G7 urging Beijing to resolve tensions over Taiwan peacefully.

China has called on Japan’s ambassador to Beijing to file strong protests over his participation in the G7’s “erroneous” statement, the foreign ministry said Friday.

During a visit to Japan in May, US President Joe Biden said he would be willing to use force to defend Taiwan — a comment that appeared to push the boundaries of US policy of “strategic ambiguity” to the island.

Kishida’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) has also pledged to double military spending to 2% of GDP.