House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s military plane was escorted by 13 fighter jets as it landed in Taiwan on Tuesday amid regional tensions that have escalated in recent days. Pelosi becomes the highest-ranking American official to visit Taiwan in the last 25 years.
China flew several fighter jets into Taiwan’s Air Defense Identification Zone in the 24 hours prior to Pelosi’s arrival, and the United States has brought more firepower into the region. But aside from some blood-curdling rhetoric from Beijing, there’s no sign that the tension will erupt into open conflict.
“The U.S. and Taiwan have colluded to make provocations first, and China has only been compelled to act out of self-defense,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying told reporters Tuesday in Beijing.
Hua said China has been in constant communication with the U.S. and made clear “how dangerous it would be if the visit actually happens.” Any countermeasures China take will be “justified and necessary” in the face of Washington’s “unscrupulous behavior,” she said.
Shortly after Pelosi’s arrival, a representative of the Chinese legislature’s Standing Committee issued a statement saying the trip “severely violated” the “One China principle,” which is Beijing’s claim to be the sole government of both mainland China and Taiwan.
But Pelosi pointed out, in an op-ed published today in the Washington Post, that America had vowed back in April of 1979, with the passage of the Taiwan Relations Act, “to consider any effort to determine the future of Taiwan by other than peaceful means…a threat to the peace and security of the Western Pacific area and of grave concern to the United States.”
“Our visit is one of several Congressional delegations to Taiwan – and it in no way contradicts longstanding United States policy, guided by the Taiwan Relations Act of 1979, U.S.-China Joint Communiques and the Six Assurances,” Pelosi said in a statement after arrival. “The United States continues to oppose unilateral efforts to change the status quo.”
Related: Pelosi Calls China’s Bluff
But China is in its own backyard and wants to throw its weight around by issuing stark warnings. In fact, the worst the Chinese have done so far is carry out a weak cyber attack that was quickly knocked down by Taiwanese officials.
Before her arrival, unspecified hackers launched a cyberattack on the Taiwanese Presidential Office’s website, making it temporarily unavailable Tuesday evening. The Presidential Office said the website was restored shortly after the attack, which overwhelmed it with traffic.
“China thinks by launching a multi-domain pressure campaign against Taiwan, the people of Taiwan will be intimidated. But they are wrong,” Wang Ting-yu, a legislator with the Democratic Progressive Party, said on Twitter in response to the attack.
Was Pelosi’s visit unnecessarily provocative? Obviously, the trip was more political than diplomatic. But China elevated this visit to a crisis — not Pelosi or the United States.
In fact, China made this trip necessary just to prove that its bullying of the United States has its limits.