Taiwan receives first visiting US House speaker in 25 years

Jet carrying Nancy Pelosi touches down in Taipei amid heightened military warnings by China against visit.

Taiwan receives first visiting US House speaker in 25 years

Despite a string of warnings, including of military action, US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi flew to Taiwan from Malaysia on Tuesday.

Pelosi was received by Taiwanese Foreign Minister Joseph Wu as she landed at Taipei Songshan Airport at around 10.44 p.m. local time (1444GMT). Two hotels have been booked to host the accompanying delegation of US lawmakers and officials.

This comes as Beijing ratcheted up its messages urging the senior US lawmaker to abandon her trip, which was not on the official agenda of Pelosi's four-nation Asia tour.

Pelosi visited Singapore on Monday, before continuing on to Malaysia. She is scheduled to also visit South Korea and Japan

Taiwan's tallest building, the Taipei 1010, lit up in lights to welcome Pelosi: "Thank you friends of democracy forming support TW (Taiwan)," read messages on the building in Mandarin.

It also read "Co-maintaining world order," and "US-Taiwan friendship lasts forever," while Chinese military ships and land forces were on alert not far from the island which is home to over 24 million people.

Pelosi, the first speaker of the US House of Representatives to visit Taiwan in 25 years, will meet Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen and also engage with Taiwanese lawmakers.

In 1997, Republican Newt Gingrich was the last House speaker to visit the self-ruled island, which has insisted on its independence since 1949.

Taiwanese officials had remained silent on Pelosi's trip, over which Beijing has raised alarm. China considers Taiwan its "breakaway province."

Beijing has warned that its military "won't sit by idly" if its "sovereignty and territorial integrity" are threatened. It added that Washington would bear responsibility for any countermeasures China takes against Pelosi's visit.

It launched several military drills near Taiwan since speculations on the visit emerged.

Last week, China's President Xi Jinping told his US counterpart Joe Biden "not to play with fire" over Taiwan.

In rare harsh remarks aimed at Washington ahead of Pelosi's landing in Taipei, China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi accused US politicians of "openly playing with fire" on the issue of Taiwan and "becoming enemies of the 1.4 billion Chinese people, which will never end well."

"Some US politicians only care about their own interests," said Wang, referring to Pelosi's unofficial trip.

The top Chinese diplomat said the One-China principle "is the universal consensus of the international community, the political foundation for China’s exchanges with other countries, the core of China’s interests, and an insurmountable red line and bottom line."

Military jets scrambled in and around the Taiwan Strait on Tuesday as US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi headed to Taiwan.

Tensions escalated as tens of hundreds watched flight of a US Air Force jets believed to be carrying Pelosi on an unannounced trip to Taiwan which China considers its “breakaway province.”

It was just around 30 minutes ahead of its destination in Taipei that the US Air Force plane officially listed Taiwan as its destination, Flightradar.com revealed.

Taiwan Air Force fighters soon escorted the US flight which is expected to land in Taipei around 1445GMT.

It will be first time in 25 years that a sitting US House speaker has visited Taiwan.

Meanwhile, Chinese military jet Su-35, believed to be more than one, started crossing the Taiwan Strait, Chinese daily Global Times reported.

The self-ruled island, home to over 24 million people, sits across the Taiwan Strait on the south of mainland China.

The flight, believed to be carrying Pelosi, approached Taiwan from Philippine Sea instead taking a shorter route from South China Sea.

Hüseyin Demir

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