China must not raise military tensions over Pelosi’s meeting with Tsai

It is unreasonable for China to strengthen military pressure on Taiwan just because a key U.S. government official visited Taiwan. A unilateral military provocation that heightens regional tensions can never be tolerated.

U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi visited Taiwan and met with Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen. The speaker of the House of Representatives is a key post, being second in line to succeed the president after the vice president. It was the first time a U.S. House speaker has visited Taiwan since 1997, a span of 25 years.

“Now more than ever, America’s solidarity with Taiwan is crucial and that is the message we are bringing here today,” Pelosi said during the meeting with Tsai. “America’s determination to preserve democracy here in Taiwan and around the world remains ironclad,” Pelosi emphasized. Tsai also stressed the importance of close cooperation between the United States and Taiwan.

Pelosi’s visit reflects a bipartisan perception in the U.S. Congress that Washington cannot just sit idly by amid circumstances in which Beijing continues its military threats to Taipei with a view to a possible armed unification.

Beijing is pursuing the “Chinafication” of Hong Kong by force, breaking its international promise to maintain the “one country, two systems” policy for 50 years after the territory’s return to China. It is quite natural that Washington and Taipei share a sense of urgency that a similar situation could occur in Taiwan. The responsibility for creating the growing tensions lies with China.

China has opposed Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan, regarding the visit of a key U.S. government official as “interference in domestic affairs” based on its “One China” principle that China and Taiwan are one nation. Chinese President Xi Jinping also called for a halt to her visit to Taiwan during telephone talks with U.S. President Joe Biden.

Pelosi’s visit does not mean that the United States has changed its “One-China” policy. Pelosi might have judged that canceling her visit to Taiwan at this stage would have meant giving in China’s threats.

For Xi, Pelosi’s visit appeared to have caused him to lose face ahead of the Communist Party convention in autumn in which he hopes to establish a long-lasting regime. Although he does not want a head-on collision with the United States, there is concern that he could raise the level of military action against Taiwan to defend his credibility.

China’s Defense Ministry criticized Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan as a malicious provocation and said it would respond with military operations.

On Aug. 2, more than 20 Chinese aircraft, including fighter jets, entered Taiwan’s air defense identification zone. Cyber-attacks on a scale 200 times the normal amount were reportedly carried out on Taiwan’s presidential office.

The Chinese military has warned that it will conduct live-fire drills in the sea and air surrounding Taiwan, and there is a possibility that it could fire missiles around Taiwan. The U.S. military intends to send an aircraft carrier and naval vessels to surrounding waters. The United States and China should communicate closely to avoid an accidental conflict.

The target area for the drills announced by China includes Japan’s exclusive economic zone. Military tensions in the Taiwan Strait have a serious impact on Japan’s security. The Japanese government should strongly urge China to exercise restraint.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 4, 2022)