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Nancy Pelosi begins high risk mission to Taiwan that angers China

US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in Taiwan on Tuesday night (Photo: Taiwan Foreign Ministry)

Speaker of the US House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi landed in Taiwan, amid a shrill diplomatic spat between Washington and Beijing, laced with heavy naval deployments in the South China Sea. 

Immediately upon landing, Pelosi issued a series of tweets.

Pelosi said: "Our delegation’s visit to Taiwan honours America’s unwavering commitment to supporting Taiwan’s vibrant Democracy. Our discussions with Taiwan leadership reaffirm our support for our partner & promote our shared interests, including advancing a free & open Indo-Pacific region".

Pelosi's apparent intent to stare down a muscular China is likely to go down well with the US domestic audience, which is already backing the drone strike that killed terror icon Ayman Al Zawahiri. It is also likely to bolster US President flagging numbers on the popularity charts. 

Nevertheless, Pelosi's visit could be a point of inflection, which could hasten China's decision to take over Taiwan, at a time when Chinese President Xi Jinping must appear strong ahead of the 20th party congress slated this Autumn. 

Stressing that her visit to Taiwan despite the tensions in Taiwan Strait was a reflection of American support to Taiwan, she said: "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".

She also slipped in hints at peace when she wrote: "Our visit is one of several Congressional delegations to Taiwan – and it in no way contradicts long standing United States policy, guided by the Taiwan Relations Act of 1979, U.S.-China Joint Communiques and the Six Assurances".

Taiwan celebrated Pelosi's visit by lighting up its most iconic landmark–the skyscraper Taipei 101. The building also flashed the words 'Speaker Pelosi', 'Welcome to TW', 'Thank you'.

China was however not impressed with Pelosi's arrival in Taiwan. Chinese ambassador to the UN, Zhang Jun issued a statement, saying that the visit is dangerous and provocative.

Zhang said: "Such a visit is apparently dangerous and provocative. It will send a seriously wrong signal to the separatist elements seeking “Taiwan Independence”, undermine the one-China principle, undermine China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, undermine the peace and stability in the Taiwan Straits, and undermine the relationship between China and the US".

He added: "If the US insists on making the visit, China will take firm and strong measures to safeguard its national sovereignty and territorial integrity, and the US has to bear all the serious consequences arising thereof".

In a bid to deter Pelosi from making the visit, China ordered live fire drills in the seas around Taiwan. It also sailed its aircraft carriers, Liaoning and Shandong from their home bases in Qingdao and Sanya in the direction of the Taiwan Straits.

The US too moved four warships close to Taiwan's eastern coast. The Aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN-76) and big deck amphibious ship USS Tripoli (LHA-7), with Marine F-35B Lighting II Joint Strike Fighters embarked, substantiated a show of strength on the edge of the South China Sea.