It is a surprise visit which could have heavy diplomatic fallout: the speaker of the United States House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi arrived on Tuesday August 2 in Taiwan, despite repeated threats from China in the previous days. Beijing has already announced in response “targeted military actions”. “L’Obs” takes stock of this day of tension.
- A visit kept secret until the last moment
Nancy Pelosi’s plane hit the tarmac at Songshan Airport on Tuesday around 4:30 p.m. French time, becoming the most important American elected official to fly to Taiwan in 25 years. The end of a suspense that had lasted for several days, while the elected American is visiting several Asian countries this week.
What increase tensions between the United States and China: Beijing considers that Taiwan is one of its provinces, which it has not yet succeeded in reuniting with the rest of its territory since the end of the civil war Chinese (1949). It is thus hostile to any initiative giving the Taiwanese authorities international legitimacy.
Since 1979, Washington has recognized only one Chinese government, that of Beijing, while continuing to provide support to the Taiwanese authorities, in particular through multiple arms sales. The United States also practices “strategic ambiguity” In other words, they refrain from saying whether or not they would defend Taiwan militarily in the event of an invasion.
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Faced with rumors of a visit, China had multiplied the threats towards the United States: a few hours before the formalization of Nancy Pelosi’s visit, the spokesperson for Chinese diplomacy, Hua Chunying, still warned against the hurry : “The United States will certainly have the responsibility [des conséquences] and will have to pay the price for their undermining of China’s sovereignty and security.”
Nancy Pelosi’s visit was not confirmed in advance and was not made official until the military plane she was traveling in landed. Proof of the attention focused on this trip: faced with the vagueness maintained by the American, the flight which took her to Taiwan on Tuesday was the most followed in the history of Flightradar24, according to this tracking site. flights.
- Beijing raises its voice again
A few minutes after Nancy Pelosi’s plane landed, Beijing immediately denounced the visit in a vitriolic statement from the Chinese Foreign Ministry. ” United States […] are trying to use Taiwan to contain China”estimates the ministry, which adds that Washington “keeps on distorting, obscuring and rendering meaningless the one-China principle, intensifying its official exchanges with Taiwan and encouraging Taiwan’s ‘independence’ separatist activities. These actions, like playing with fire, are extremely dangerous. »
- Pelosi tries to temper
Barely arrived on Taiwanese soil, Nancy Pelosi for her part affirmed in a press release that her visit demonstrated the “unconditional support” of the United States to democracy on the island. However, she assures us: this visit “contradicted in any way” long-standing US policy toward China. “The United States continues to oppose any effort to change the status quo” on the island, she added.
In a column published in parallel in the “Washington Post” Tuesday, Nancy Pelosi assures that her visit to Taiwan aims to“to be at the side of Taiwan […] where democracy is threatened.
For his part, the spokesman of the National Security Council, John Kirby, assured that this visit did not raise “no question of violation of sovereignty” and that there was “no reason for it to serve as a pretext to provoke a crisis or a conflict”. “We are going to make sure that she is going to have a safe visit”he added on CNN.
Taiwan, for its part, welcomed this visit: “We believe that President Pelosi’s visit (…) will strengthen the close and friendly relations between Taiwan and the United States, and further deepen the general cooperation between the two parties in all fields”estimated the Taiwanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, shortly after the arrival of the American leader.
- Russia shows support for Beijing
Russia meanwhile rushed to defend its ally China on Tuesday: “The Chinese side has the right to take necessary measures to protect its sovereignty and territorial integrity regarding the Taiwan issue”said the Russian Foreign Ministry after the announcement of Chinese military actions.
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A few hours earlier, Russia had already set the tone by accusing the United States of wanting “destabilize the world”. “Not a single conflict settled in the last decades, but several provoked”, wrote on his Telegram account the spokeswoman for Russian diplomacy, Maria Zakharova. Of the statements sound like a return to sender for Moscow, which Western countries, led by the United States, accuse of destabilizing with its military offensive against Ukraine.
- The military situation remains tense
While China had already carried out military exercises this weekend and broadcast a video with a martial tone between artillery fire and soldiers claiming to be ready for combat, Beijing announced in response to Nancy Pelosi’s visit the launch by the army of“targeted military actions” which will begin on Wednesday, including “long range live ammunition firing” in the Taiwan Strait.
The army operation aims to “resolutely uphold national sovereignty and territorial integrity and firmly thwart external interference and separatist attempts at ‘Taiwan independence'”according to the spokesperson for the Chinese Ministry of Defense.
Taiwanese authorities reported on Tuesday that 21 Chinese military planes entered the island’s air defense identification zone (much wider than the airspace) on Tuesday.
Several American ships were also cruising in the region on Tuesday, including the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan, according to American military sources.
Most observers rate the likelihood of armed conflict as low. But US officials said they were preparing for shows of force from the Chinese military, such as missile strikes in the Taiwan Straits and aerial incursions around the island.