Thursday 4 August 2022 01:16 AM Liz Truss backs Nancy Pelosi in Taiwan row as officials in Taipei brace for ... trends now
Taiwan scrambled a squadron of fighter jets last night to ward off a Chinese incursion as Beijing began its threatened intimidation of the island earlier than anticipated.
It comes as House Speaker Pelosi departed the country following a three-day visit, as she heads to meet her South Korean counterpart, National Assembly Speaker Kim Jin-pyo and other ruling party members today.
Her visit was seen by China as an affront because it regards Taiwan, an island of more than 23million people, as a breakaway nation and wants to reunify it with the mainland, by force if necessary.
Last night, Foreign Secretary and leadership hopeful Ms Truss said Pelosi, 82, was ‘well within her rights as speaker of congress’ to visit the island's capital Taipei — a visit which sparked an international incident.
Speaking at the Tory hustings in Cardiff, Ms Truss added that the real issue was the retaliatory action from China and she demanded ‘de-escalation’ by Beijing.
'The issue here is the language and the escalatory language that we have heard from china and I think that is irresponsible and I urge them to deescalate,' she said.
Today Taipei is bracing itself for a blockade by China, with warships and planes set to surround Taiwan at the start of four days of aggressive military drills that will come within ten miles of its coast – and inside its territorial waters.
The six exercises will encircle the island, cutting it off by air and sea. They will heighten fears that China is practising for a possible future invasion, a scenario that has already been brought into focus by the war in Ukraine.
Taiwan’s defence ministry said it would ‘resolutely defend national sovereignty’, but warned commercial planes and ships to avoid the area as the drills, set to begin at noon today local time, would involve ‘long-range live firing’ and missile launches.
Beijing yesterday sent 27 of its aircraft, including 16 Russian-made Su-30 fighters, into Taipei’s air defence zone in an early act of menace, with 22 jets crossing the Taiwan Strait separating the two countries.
Foreign Secretary and leadership hopeful Ms Truss said Pelosi, 82, was ‘well within her rights as speaker of congress’ to visit the island's capital Taipei — a visit which sparked an international incident. Pictured at the Cardiff hustings
China considers Pelosi's visit an affront because it regards Taiwan, an island of more than 23million people, as a breakaway nation and wants to reunify it with the mainland, by force if necessary
China has announced military drills that will take place in these locations around Taiwan between midday Thursday and midday Sunday with the sea and airspace closed - effectively blockading the island. Three of the drills will breach Taiwanese territorial waters, in what Taipei has called a serious breach of international norms. Dozens of Chinese warplanes entered Taiwan's air defence zone today (demonstrated by purple, blue and green arrows on the above map)
The drills were announced in response to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi visiting the island, becoming the most-senior US politician to do so since 1997
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her 5-member congress delegation depart Taipei Songshan Airport to South Korea after Pelosi's visit within her Pacific tour in Taipei, Taiwan on August 3, 2022. The tensions over her visit are following her on her next leg, to South Korea
China has reacted with fury to US Speaker Nancy Pelosi's controversial trip to Taiwan that has inflamed tensions between the two superpowers.
China's foreign minister, Wang Yi, branded the trip a 'complete farce' and repeated the much-used phrase by Chinese diplomacy that 'those who play with fire will perish by it.'
Last week Chinese premier Xi Jinping had used the same expression in a phone call to US President Joe Biden.
Early on Wednesday, the Chinese foreign ministry slammed Pelosi for 'brazenly' going ahead with the trip that was still unconfirmed as late as Monday, claiming it 'maliciously infringes on China's sovereignty and blatantly engages in political provocations.'
'It proves once again that some US politicians have become 'troublemakers' of China-US relations,' the statement said.
China's Taiwan Affairs Office weighed in, threatening 'criminal punishment measures' targeted at 'die hard' Taiwanese supporters of independence.
And late Tuesday night, after Pelosi's arrival, the Chinese Deputy Foreign Minister summoned the US Ambassador to China, Nicholas Burns, to protest the visit.
Taipei's generals have defied the threats, saying yesterday that they are not looking for a fight with China but 'won't shy away from one' either.
'We are resolved to uphold our sovereignty, liberty and democracy' they said in a statement posted alongside a video of fighter jets, submarines, attack helicopters and warships on manoeuvres.
'We fear no threat or challenges. We are not eager for a fight, nor will we shy away from one. We have the capacity and the will to uphold our valued liberty and democracy, and maintain our region's stability,' the generals added.
The Chinese war games are a response to the controversial whistle-stop visit to Taipei by Nancy Pelosi, speaker of the US House of Representatives, the most prominent US politician on Taiwanese soil in 25 years.
To Beijing’s fury, she met with the president and human rights leaders yesterday after landing in Taipei on Tuesday night.
China considers the visit an affront because it regards Taiwan, an island of more than 23million people, as a breakaway nation and wants to reunify it with the mainland, by force if necessary.
Xi Jinping has reacted furiously to Pelosi's visit, which comes weeks before he is due to assume an historic third term as China's leader at the Party Congress.
Matthew Henderson, associate fellow at the Council on Geostrategy, told MailOnline: 'Xi has made so-called 're-unification' with Taiwan his chosen cause and hoped-for legacy as China's greatest leader since Mao.
'It would be as well to assume that in the run-up to the Party Congress, when he intends to secure permanent autocracy, Xi will be willing to take significantly greater risks than [Chinese governments of the past.]'
While the risk of immediate conflict around Taiwan is low, Mr Henderson added that 'it would be an error to assume that the Xi regime is able to hold back from disastrous adventurism when it has painted itself into such a corner over the right to 'reunite' with Taiwan, whose people want nothing of the kind and which the liberal world must not allow.'
Nancy Pelosi speaks alongside Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen in Taipei on Wednesday, during which she said America's commitment to preserving democracy on the island is 'ironclad'
Pelosi departs Taiwan on Wednesday following her flying visit, and will now visit fellow allies Japan and South Korea
Pelosi waves to crowds at Taiwan's main airport as she departs the country Wednesday, following a meeting with the island's president Tsai Ing-wen
Beijing says the drills are being conducted in response to Pelosi's visit to Taiwan, which is the first by a House Speaker since Newt Gingrich travelled there in 1997
A Chinese Type 052C destroyer is pictured taking part in military drills around Taiwan today, that will continue until Sunday and effectively blockade the island
Nancy Pelosi has accused China of 'standing in the way' of Taiwan's participation in international affairs and cautioned that America's commitment to preserving democracy 'remains ironclad'.
Pelosi also met with Taiwan's female president Tsai Ing-wen - telling her that the controversial visit shows the US 'will not abandon its commitment' to the island.
The Democrat specifically called out China, whose leaders warned the trip was pushing Taiwan into a 'disastrous abyss,' by telling reporters: 'They didn't say anything when the men came.'
Her remark referred to the surprise one-day visit made by bipartisan congressional delegation in April 2021. The group included Senators Lindsey Graham, Bob Menendez, Richard Burr, Ben Sasse and Rob Portman, as well as Rep. Ronny Jackson.
Pelosi criticized Beijing for preventing Taiwan from 'participating and going to certain meetings' but noted the government would 'not stand in the way of people coming to Taiwan.'
China furiously condemned the visit as Pelosi hailed self-ruled Taiwan as 'one of the freest societies in the world' in her speech to the parliament in Taipei.
He continued: 'Xi is already using the whole gamut of coercive state powers- including hostile military activity, to try to erode Taiwanese resolve and that of Taiwan's supporters.
'Xi could bring down the Taiwanese government by blockading the island which depends heavily on imported food and other staples. But confidence and resilience is growing, and Xi will not welcome this.
'We should not rule out the possibility of sudden, devastating missile attacks on the central government that would bring a rapid collapse of resistance. Then the rest of the world could protest and sanction to no avail.
'Xi could, if he felt compelled to do so by threats to his personal authority, authorise such an assault at very little notice indeed. He may be counting in this as an element in his current campaign of bluff and coercive pressures on a global front.
'There is still time for the concerted energies of the free world to make it clear to Xi that his agenda to annexe Taiwan and impose unaccountable totalitarian rule on 23 million citizens of a vibrant democracy will never be allowed to succeed.'
During a press conference yesterday, Mrs Pelosi said: ‘Today the world faces a choice between democracy and autocracy. America’s determination to preserve democracy here in Taiwan and around the world remains ironclad.’
In a rebuke to Beijing, the speaker, a longtime China critic who defied US President Joe Biden to make the trip, added that ‘China has stood in the way of Taiwan’.
She even suggested her sex could be the reason why there was such an angry reaction, saying: ‘They didn’t say anything when the men came,’ in reference to previous US delegations.
In a statement released after the Democrat, 82, had left for South Korea to continue a tour of Asia, she said that China ‘cannot prevent world leaders or anyone from travelling to Taiwan to pay respect to its flourishing democracy’.
Foreign ministers from the G7 group of nations said in a joint statement: ‘There is no justification to use a visit as pretext for aggressive military activity in the Taiwan Strait.’
A Xian H-6 Chinese bomber jet takes part in military drills in the skies near Taiwan yesterday, as Beijing puts on an unprecedented show of force after Nancy Pelosi visited the island
The view from the deck of a Chinese missile destroyer taking part in military drills in the Taiwan Strait yesterday, as Beijing menaces its democratic neighbour
Chinese anti-aircraft forces in its Eastern Theatre - which covers the Taiwan Strait - take part in live-fire exercises last night in an effort to intimidate Taipei and the US
Anti-aircraft fire streaks into the skies over Fujian, the Chinese province closest to Taiwan, last night in a show-of-strength intended to intimidate America and the democratic government in Taipei
A Chinese anti-aircraft crew open fire with a mobile gun during live-fire drills that began on Tuesday and will last until Thursday, when even larger sea and air drills begin
A Chinese anti-aircraft battery lines up for live-fire drills taking place in Fujian province - the closest region to Taiwan - as Beijing rattles its sabres over Pelosi's visit to the island
A leading Russian senator has vowed that Vladimir Putin will come to China's aid if it goes to war over Taiwan.
But Vladimir Dzhabarov also pleaded for more support from Beijing for the Kremlin's war in Ukraine.
'I see no grounds to refuse to help China,' said the politician who is first deputy chairman of the international committee in Russia's Federation Council, the upper house of parliament.
'But I would like to see a two-way movement with China.
'It means that we should have some benefits from this cooperation.'
There is concern in Moscow that Putin's wooing of China has failed to produce better results in support for his war in Ukraine.
Close Putin ally Dzhabarov made clear that Russia will ready back China in any conflict over disputed island Taiwan, revelling in an anti-Western alliance.
'I am convinced that in this case China hopes for a certain assistance from Russia,' he said.
This was the case 'because it will be difficult for China to confront the United States without Russia's support.'
They added that China’s ‘escalatory response risks increasing tensions and destabilising the region’. Among those calling for calm was Foreign Secretary Liz Truss. She added of Mrs Pelosi’s visit: ‘It’s perfectly reasonable what is taking place and I urge China to de-escalate.’
The Chinese exercises will lead to a standoff not seen since the mid-1990s, when they were much further away from Taiwan. In 1996, the US navy dispatched two aircraft carriers close to the strait to effectively end the crisis.
Such a move would be more challenging now given China’s military growth, including vastly more capable missiles. Beijing sought to further punish Taiwan yesterday by curbing imports of fruit and fish and halting exports of sand, though it avoided disrupting the flow of microchips, which would send shockwaves through the global economy.
Pelosi met with Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen in Taipei yesterday, where she pledged continued US support for the island's democracy.
'Today the world faces a choice between democracy and autocracy' she said in a short speech during a meeting with Taiwan's President Tsai Ing-wen.
'America's determination to preserve democracy, here in Taiwan and around the world, remains ironclad.'
Ms Ing-wen added that 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,' Tsai said at an event with Pelosi in Taipei.
She also thanked the 82-year-old US lawmaker for 'taking concrete actions to show your staunch support for Taiwan at this critical moment'.
Pelosi has now departed Taiwan, and will head to US allies Japan and South Korea next.
China tries to keep Taiwan isolated on the world stage and opposes countries having official exchanges with Taipei.
Chinese troops fire shoulder-mounted anti-aircraft launchers as part of military drills announced by Beijing on Monday
Chinese troops carry ammunition containers to their positions for live-fire exercises taking place on the mainland, in areas close to the self-governing island of Taiwan
Chinese troops fire anti-aircraft missiles during drills aimed at intimidating Taiwan and its US allies during Pelosi's visit to the island, which began on Monday
Chinese radar operators take part in live-fire drills by anti-aircraft forces in the eastern province of Fujian on Monday
'Today, our delegation... came to Taiwan to make unequivocally clear we will not abandon our commitment to Taiwan,' Pelosi said at the event with Tsai.
Earlier, Pelosi said her group had come 'in friendship to Taiwan' and 'in peace to the region'.
Taiwan views itself as an independent nation separate from mainland China, but Beijing views it as a breakaway province that it