Pelosi arrives in Taiwan amid heightened US-China tensions

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By Aminu Kutama

The speaker of the United States House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, has arrived in Taiwan, on a visit that has enraged China which claims the self-governing island as its own territory.
Pelosi’s arrival in Taipei late on Tuesday risks triggering a major crisis between China and the US, which does not officially recognise Taiwan as an independent state but is still required by US law to provide its government with the means to defend itself.

China had threatened “serious consequences” if Pelosi – the highest ranking US official to travel to Taiwan in 25 years – went ahead with her visit.

“The US side will bear the responsibility and pay the price for undermining China’s sovereign security interests,” foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told a regular news briefing in Beijing.

Aljazeera reports that on Tuesday morning, Chinese warships and aircraft repeatedly edged into the median line of the Taiwan Strait, according to reports. Four US naval ships, including one aircraft carrier, were deployed in the waters east of Taiwan before Pelosi’s arrival.

“Chinese warships and fighters may cross over the median line in response to the visit, but they are unlikely to enter Taiwan’s national airspace or its territorial waters, as there is too high a risk of engaging Taiwanese air force fighters,” James Lee, a researcher of US-Taiwan relations at Taiwan’s Academia Sinica, said.

Analysts in Taiwan said Beijing’s reactions to the visit are likely to be both short and long-term.

Wen-ti Sung, an expert at the Australian Centre on China in the World at Australian National University, told Al Jazeera that China’s People’s Liberation Army will likely use live-fire exercises and missile tests to demonstrate strength to its domestic audience in response to the Pelosi visit.

“The message China intends to send is that it has the ‘ability’ to respond, but whether it currently has the ‘intention’ to respond or not, is a different matter. China will argue that it will take action at a timing of its own choosing, rather than reacting or dancing to the tune of external ‘provocations’,” Sung said.

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