US stares down China’s dare as Nancy Pelosi lands in Taiwan

WASHINGTON: America has stared down China’s dare to channel US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan. Pelosi, the top US lawmaker and second in line to the White House, arrived in Taiwan’s capital Taipeh on Tuesday night despite warnings from Beijing that such a trip would be disastrous for US-China ties and threats that it would stop the visit by force.
Both sides amassed military hardware in the region ahead of the visit, with the US dismissing Chinese threats and Beijing eventually having to suck up humiliation after raising the stakes publicly. So many people followed the US government plane carrying Pelosi and her Congressional delegation that the flight tracking website Flight Radar 24 crashed.

As it turned out, China had to hold fire and Pelosi’s plane landed safely. She is expected to meet Taiwan’s top leadership, including President, in the highest-level exchange between the two sides in 25 years during which time Washington had gradually ceded to Beijing’s claim over Taiwan.
In statement upon her arrival Pelosi and the congressional delegation that accompanied her said the visit “honors America’s unwavering commitment to supporting Taiwan’s vibrant democracy.”

“Our discussions with Taiwan leadership will focus on reaffirming our support for our partner and on promoting our shared interests, including advancing a free and open Indo-Pacific region,” the statement said, adding, “America’s solidarity with the 23 million people of Taiwan is more important today than ever, as the world faces a choice between autocracy and democracy.”

US officials argued Pelosi is not the first American lawmaker, nor her delegation the first US legislative team to visit Taipeh, and therefore China should not throw an unnecessary tantrum about it. “There is no reason for Beijing to turn a potential visit consistent with longstanding US policy into some sort of crisis,” a US National Council Spokesperson said ahead of the Pelosi landing, maintaining there was no change in US policy.
But given her high profile and the growing tensions between China and US, it became a heated issue, with domestic constituencies in both countries cranking up the temperature.
Pelosi herself, at 82, is widely respected for her fiercely independent stand that often clashes with Washington’s executive establishment. She is an open critic of China’s communist leadership and once unfurled a pro-democracy banner on Tienanmen square soon after the bloody crackdown there, putting her forever in Beijing’s bad books.
She is also a long-time supporter of the Dalai Lama, meeting him not only during his visits to the US and ensuring Congressional honors and receptions, but also seeking him out in Dharamsala during one of her visits to India.

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