China must understand that it will not stand in the way of people coming to Taiwan, US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said in Taipei on Wednesday as her contentious trip to the self-ruled island draws scathing criticism from a furious Beijing.
“I just hope that it’s really clear that while China has stood in the way of Taiwan participating and going to certain meetings, that they understand that they will not stand in the way of people coming to Taiwan,” Pelosi said at a joint news conference with Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen.
On China’s furor over her trip, Pelosi said: “I think they made a big fuss because I’m the speaker, I guess. I don’t know whether that’s a reason or an excuse, because they didn’t say anything when the men came.”
She was referring to visits to Taiwan by several American lawmakers in the recent past.
Pelosi, the first speaker of the US House of Representatives to visit Taiwan in 25 years, reached Taipei on Tuesday night.
Soon after her plane landed, China announced it will launch military drills around the self-ruled island, home to over 24 million people.
China views Taiwan as a “breakaway province” and has vowed to reunify it with the mainland, including by force if necessary.
“We salute the successes of Taiwan. We work together for the security of Taiwan and just take great lessons from democracy of Taiwan,” Pelosi added.
“Strength, goodwill and again, the demonstration of a democracy that has evolved to a stronger place now and offers a very strong contrast to what’s happening in mainland China … no more evidence needed than what happened in Hong Kong,” she said, referring to the semi-autonomous region which has undergone radical changes since pro-democracy protests erupted there in 2019.
In her discussions with the visiting American delegation, Tsai said she told Pelosi that Taiwan remains “committed to maintaining the status quo across the (Taiwan) Strait.”
“Taiwanese people are pragmatic, we have welcomed many Congressional delegations to Taiwan over the years, and the normal practice of friends visiting each other is inherent in our culture and hospitality,” she said.
Without naming China, Tsai, however, stressed that military exercises are “unnecessary responses.”
“Taiwan has always been open to constructive dialogue and we will work with stakeholders to bring about stability and peace in the region,” she added.
Earlier on Wednesday, Taiwan’s Defense Ministry said China’s announcement of military drills, including live-fire exercises in the sea and airspace around Taiwan from Thursday, “highlights its mentality of using force to resolve differences and undermine regional peace and stability.”
It said Beijing’s move is “an attempt to threaten our important ports and urban areas, and unilaterally undermine regional peace and stability.”