China, U.S. allies divided over Pelosi Taiwan visit

BEIJING (AP) — U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan has received bipartisan support at home and support from democracies around the world.

Meanwhile, China, which claims Taiwan as its own territory and has no right to an independent status, has gained support among other authoritarian states. The divided opinions illustrate both China’s growing global influence and the backlash it has sparked in the world’s free societies.

President Joe Biden’s administration has not publicly endorsed Pelosi’s visit, and the president himself said the military doesn’t think “it’s a good idea at the moment” amid heightened tensions between the two sides.

China responded to the visit by announcing days-long military exercises around Taiwan and a series of diatribes at the U.S. and Taiwanese governments, accusing them of collusion to undermine China’s sovereignty and national security. In 2016, China cut ties with the independence-leaning Taiwanese president, Tsai Ing-wen, after she refused to support China’s insistence that Taiwan and the mainland are part of a Chinese nation.

“The move is a solemn deterrent to the recent major escalation of U.S. passive actions on the Taiwan issue, and a serious warning to ‘Taiwan independence’ forces seeking ‘independence’,” the PLA’s Eastern Theater Command said in a statement on Tuesday.

The exercise will include air and sea exercises and long-range missile targeting, the statement said. Operators are already bracing for disruption to civil aviation and commercial shipping.

China’s response has raised fears of a new Taiwan Strait crisis, similar to the 1995-96 crisis, when China staged threatening military exercises and struck the island with missiles in waters north and south of its main port . Although the two sides parted ways in a civil war more than 70 years ago, China has maintained the threat of aggression and has substantially increased its capabilities through investments in missiles, naval ships and air force.

Australia’s relationship with China has taken a nosedive in recent years, with Prime Minister Anthony Albanese declining to comment specifically on Pelosi’s visit on Wednesday. However, he noted: “We live in an era of heightened strategic competition and heightened tensions in our region, where China has taken a more aggressive stance.”

“But our position on Taiwan is clear,” he added. “We do not want to see any unilateral changes to the status quo, and we will continue to work with our partners to promote peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait.”

Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno also avoided commenting on Pelosi’s trip to Taiwan, but expressed concern about China’s plans to conduct live-fire military exercises in regional waters that include parts of Japan’s exclusive economic zone. Japan has conveyed Tokyo’s “concerns” about the exercise to Beijing, Matsuno said.

“Peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait are important not only to Japan’s national security, but also to the international community, and Japan’s position is that we expect the Taiwan issue to be resolved peacefully through dialogue,” Matsuno said.

Meanwhile, Chinese ally North Korea used the visit to accuse the United States of being “the root cause of harassment of peace and security in the region” and expressed support for Beijing’s confrontation over Pelosi’s visit.

“We strongly condemn any external force’s interference in the Taiwan issue, and fully support the Chinese government’s just position to resolutely defend national sovereignty and territorial integrity,” a government spokesman said. “The United States’ attempt to disrupt China’s development and reunification is doomed to bankruptcy.”

Russia — another Chinese ally whose incursion into Ukraine has raised concerns about China’s own threat to annex Taiwan by force — called the visit a “clear provocation, consistent with the U.S. policy of aggression aimed at comprehensively deterring China.”

Beijing “has the right to take measures to defend its sovereignty and territorial integrity on the Taiwan issue,” the government said in a statement. The foreign policies of China and Russia have been closely aligned in recent years, with Moscow backing China on the Taiwan issue and Beijing rejecting criticism of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, while accusing the United States and NATO of provoking conflict and imposing punitive economic sanctions on Russia.

Pelosi has made criticizing China and supporting Taiwan a focus of her more than three decades in Congress.

In a meeting with Tsai Ing-wen on Wednesday, she said, “Today the world faces a choice between democracy and authoritarianism.”

“America’s resolve to preserve democracy in Taiwan and around the world remains unwavering,” Pelosi said.

After Taiwan, she will visit South Korea and Japan, both major U.S. security partners in Asia.

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