“We are proud of our lasting friendship,” said Pelosi, speaking with Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen at the presidential office in Taipei on Wednesday morning local time.
“More than ever, America’s solidarity with Taiwan is crucial and that is the message we bring here today,” Pelosi said.
Pelosi’s speech came shortly after Tsai praised the speaker’s long-standing commitment to democracy and human rights and bestowed her Taiwan’s highest civilian honor, the “Order of Auspicious Clouds with Special Grand Cordon.”
“I look forward to displaying this award in the Speaker’s Office, or wearing it there, in the Capitol as a symbol of our cherished friendship,” Pelosi said.
Pelosi’s visit marks the first time in 25 years that a Speaker of the US House of Taiwan has visited Taiwan, a self-governing island that China claims is part of its territory.
The Chinese military – the People’s Liberation Army, or PLA – has announced it will conduct military exercises in response to Pelosi’s visit from Thursday to Sunday, including joint air and sea exercises and live fire drills.
Tsai thanked Pelosi on Wednesday for visiting the self-ruled island and said Taipei would “do anything” to bolster its self-defense capabilities.
“Faced with deliberately heightened military threats, Taiwan will not back down,” Tsai said at the presidential office in Taipei. “We will vigorously uphold our nation’s sovereignty and continue to defend the line of defense for democracy. At the same time, we want to cooperate and work in unity with all democracies around the world to collectively protect democratic values.”
Tsai said she is committed to “maintaining peace and stability” in the Taiwan Strait and pledged to make Taiwan a “major stabilizing force” for regional security and the development of world trade.
Earlier Wednesday, Pelosia praised Taiwan as “one of the freest societies in the world” in her first public comments since becoming the highest-ranking US official to visit the island in 25 years.
Pelosi and the US congressional delegation she leads also met members of Taiwan’s parliament and exchanged pleasantries with Taiwan’s Vice-Chairman Tsai Chi-chang before a closed-door meeting.
“So now we look forward to our talk about how we can work together, learn from you and share some thoughts ourselves on how we can protect the planet from the climate crisis, how we can accelerate and learn from you, how to mitigate the Covid crisis. approach, how we promote respect for all people in our countries as we move forward,” Pelosi said. “And again, we come in friendship, we thank you for your leadership, we want the world to recognize that.”
Tsai thanked Pelosi for coming to Taiwan and for his “steadfast support”, saying the visit by the US congressional delegation represents “the strongest defense and consolidation of the value of democracy and freedom”.
On Tuesday, Taiwan’s Ministry of National Defense said 21 Chinese warplanes have raided Taiwan’s Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ).
The raids were made by 10 J-16 fighter jets, eight J-11 fighter jets, one Y-9 electronic warfare aircraft, one Y-8 electronic intelligence aircraft and one KJ-500 early warning and control aircraft, the Taiwanese Defense The ministry reports this in a statement on Tuesday evening.
The Taiwanese military has issued radio alerts and deployed air defense missile systems to monitor the activities, it added.
China regularly sends fighter jets to Taiwan’s self-proclaimed ADIZ. The most raids ever recorded were on October 4 last year, when 56 military aircraft flew into the area on the same day.
Air Defense Identification Zones are buffer areas set up to provide advance warning of incoming aircraft. They are distinct from and go beyond sovereign airspace, which is defined under international law as an area extending 12 nautical miles from an area’s shoreline.
Chinese Deputy Foreign Minister Xie Feng convened US Ambassador to China Nicholas Burns late Tuesday evening local time to protest the visit, Chinese state media channel CCTV reported Wednesday.
However, White House officials said Pelosi’s trip was in line with US policy toward Taiwan, while warning Beijing not to escalate in response.
Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs welcomed the speaker’s visit and said it “completely demonstrates the great importance the US Congress attaches to Taiwan”.
Long a Chinese hawk, Pelosi explained in an op-ed shortly after landing on Tuesday why she chose to travel to Taiwan as the first speaker in 25 years, writing that the US should support a democracy now threatened by the Chinese Communist Party.
“We cannot stand by as the (Communist Party) threatens Taiwan and democracy itself,” she wrote.