TOKYO (AP) — China will not isolate Taiwan by preventing U.S. officials from traveling there, U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Friday in Tokyo, concluding her tour of Asia highlighted by a visit to Taipei that angered China..
The Chinese have tried to isolate Taiwan, Pelosi said, even more recently by preventing the self-governing island from joining the World Health Organization.
“They may try to prevent Taiwan from visiting or engaging in other places, but they will not isolate Taiwan by preventing us from traveling there,” he said, defending his trip which some say has increased tension in the region.
Pelosi called the claim “ridiculous” and said her trip to Taiwan was not intended to change the status quo on the island but to maintain peace across the Taiwan Strait. He praised Taiwan’s struggling democracy, including its progress on diversity, including LGBTQ rights, and success in technology and business, while criticizing China’s violations of trade agreements, weapons proliferation and human rights issues. .
“If we don’t defend human rights in China for commercial interests, we lose all moral authority to speak about human rights anywhere in the world,” Pelosi said. “China has some contradictions: some progress in terms of lifting people up, some horrible things happening in terms of the Uyghurs. In fact, it has been labeled a genocide.”
Pelosi said that “the two great countries,” the United States and China, should communicate in areas such as climate and other global problems. “This is not about our visit determining what the relationship is between the United States and China. It is a much bigger and longer term challenge and once again we have to recognize that we have to work together in certain areas”.
“Our friendship with Taiwan is strong. It is bipartisan in the House and in the Senate, overwhelming support for peace and the status quo in Taiwan,” she said.
Pelosi, the first House speaker to visit Taiwan in 25 years, said in Taipei on Wednesday that America’s commitment to democracy on the island and elsewhere “remains strong.”
Pelosi and five other members of Congress arrived in Tokyo Thursday night after visiting Singapore, Malaysia, Taiwan and South Korea.
China, which claims Taiwan and has threatened to annex it by force if necessary, called its visit to the island a provocation and launched military exercises on Thursday.including missile strike training, in six zones around Taiwan, in what could be the largest since the mid-1990s.
Pelosi said China had launched the “attacks probably using our visit as an excuse.”
Earlier Friday, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said China’s military exercises targeting Taiwan pose a “serious problem” threatening regional peace and security after five ballistic missiles launched as part of the drills landed in Japan’s exclusive economic zone near a remote island in the southwest.
Kishida, speaking after breakfast with Pelosi and her congressional delegation, said missile launches must “stop immediately.”
Japanese Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi said five missiles fell Thursday in Japan’s exclusive economic zone off Hateruma, an island far to the south of Japan’s main islands. He said Japan protested to China, saying the missiles “threaten Japan’s national security and the lives of the Japanese people, which we strongly condemn.”
The Defense Ministry later said it believed the other four missiles, fired from China’s southeast coast of Fujian, flew over Taiwan.
Japanese Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi, attending a regional meeting in Cambodia, said China’s actions are “seriously affecting peace and stability in the region and the international community, and we demand the immediate suspension of military exercises”.
In recent years, Japan has strengthened its defense capabilities and troop presence in southwestern Japan and on remote islands, including Okinawa., which is about 700 kilometers (420 miles) northeast of Taiwan. Many residents say they worry that their island could quickly become engulfed in any Taiwan conflict. Okinawa hosts most of the 50,000 US troops based in Japan under a bilateral security pact.
At breakfast on Friday, Pelosi and her congressional delegation also discussed their shared security concerns about China, North Korea and Russia, and pledged their commitment to working for peace and stability in Taiwan, Kishida said. Pelosi and the delegation also held talks with her Japanese counterpart, House Speaker Hiroyuki Hosoda, after briefly observing a plenary session where they were greeted with a standing ovation.
Japan and its key ally the US have been pushing for new economic and security frameworks with other democracies in the Indo-Pacific region and Europe to counter China’s growing influence. amid rising tensions between Beijing and Taipei.
Days before Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan, a group of top Japanese lawmakers, including former Defense Minister Shigeru Ishiba, visited the island and discussed regional security with Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen. Ishiba said that Japan, while working with the United States to prevent conflicts in the Indo-Pacific, wants a defense agreement with Taiwan.
On Thursday, foreign ministers from the Group of Seven industrialized countries issued a statement saying “there is no justification for using a visit as a pretext for aggressive military activity in the Taiwan Strait.” He said China’s “escalated response risks heightening tensions and destabilizing the region.”
China cited its displeasure over the statement for the last-minute cancellation of the talks between the foreign ministers of China and Japan on the sidelines of the meeting of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in Cambodia on Thursday.
Pelosi held talks Thursday in South Koreaalso a key US ally, which has stayed away from the Taiwan issue, ostensibly to avoid upsetting China, focusing instead on the growing nuclear threat from North Korea..
In recent years, South Korea has been struggling to strike a balance between the United States and China as their rivalry has deepened.
Chinese military exercises launched on Thursday involve its navy, air force and other departments and will last until Sunday. They include missile attacks on targets in the seas to the north and south of the island in an echo of the last major Chinese military exercises in 1995 and 1996 aimed at intimidating Taiwan’s leaders and voters.
Taiwan has put its military on alert and has conducted civil defense exercises, while the United States has numerous naval assets in the area.
China has also flown warplanes into Taiwan and blocked imports of its citrus and fish.
China sees the island as a breakaway province and views visits to Taiwan by foreign officials as recognition of its sovereignty.
The Biden and Pelosi administrations have said the United States remains committed to a “one China” policy, which recognizes Beijing as the government of China but allows informal relations and defense ties with Taipei. The administration discouraged, but did not prevent, Pelosi’s visit.
Pelosi has been a longtime advocate for human rights in China. She, along with other lawmakers, visited Beijing’s Tiananmen Square in 1991 to support democracy two years after a bloody military crackdown on protesters in the square.
As leader of the House of Representatives, Pelosi’s trip has raised tensions between the United States and China more than visits by other members of Congress. The last House Speaker to visit Taiwan was Newt Gingrich in 1997.
China and Taiwan, which split in 1949 after a civil war, have no official relations but do have multibillion-dollar trade ties.
Associated Press writers Hyung-jin Kim in Seoul, South Korea, and Huizhong Wu in Taipei, Taiwan, contributed to this report.