House Speaker Nancy Pelosi defied the Communist Chinese government Tuesday by touching down in Taiwan for a visit. The California Democrat continued to win praise from Republican lawmakers, but an ambiguous response at best from the Biden administration, which has been skeptical of the trip. 

Pelosi issued a statement after her arrival saying that the visit “honors America’s unwavering commitment to supporting Taiwan’s vibrant democracy.”

Pelosi is the highest-ranking U.S. official to visit Taiwan since then-House Speaker Newt Gingrich, R-Ga., did it in 1997.  Gingrich is among Republicans who had urged her to go through with the trip after it leaked.

Chinese Communist Party officials, who consider Taiwan to be part of China, reacted to Pelosi’s decision by ratcheting up their rhetoric, promising military drills near Taiwan, and taking punitive economic actions.  

Taiwanese Foreign Minister Joseph Wu met Pelosi as she disembarked from a U.S. Air Force passenger jet in the capital Taipei just before 11 p.m. local time (11 a.m. in Washington).

“America’s solidarity with the 23 million people of Taiwan is more important today than ever, as the world faces a choice between autocracy and democracy,” Pelosi said in her written statement, adding:

Our visit is one of several congressional delegations to Taiwan—and it in no way contradicts long-standing United States policy, guided by the Taiwan Relations Act of 1979, U.S.-China Joint Communiques and the Six Assurances. The United States continues to oppose unilateral efforts to change the status quo.

Pelosi spent the night in Taipei before meeting the next morning with Taiwanese officials, The Associated Press reported.

Pelosi said Wednesday that she and the others in her congressional delegation are showing they will not abandon their commitment to the self-governing island, AP reported.

“Today, the world faces a choice between democracy and autocracy,” the California Democrat said in brief remarks during a meeting with Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen, according to AP. “America’s determination to preserve democracy, here in Taiwan and around the world, remains ironclad.”

Before Pelosi’s arrival, Taiwanese Premier Su Tseng-chang said that “any foreign guests and friendly lawmakers” are “very much welcome.”

A statement from 26 Senate Republicans, led by Tim Scott of South Carolina and Dan Sullivan of Alaska, supported Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., was among the signatories. 

“We support Speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi’s trip to Taiwan. For decades, members of the United States Congress, including a previous Speaker of the House, have traveled to Taiwan,” the Senate Republicans’ statement said, adding:

This travel is consistent with the United States’ One China policy, to which we are committed. We are also committed now, more than ever, to all elements of the Taiwan Relations Act.

By contrast, the White House didn’t explicitly oppose Pelosi’s trip, but President Joe Biden had said in late July: “The military thinks it’s not a good idea right now.”

White House national security spokesman John Kirby said Tuesday that the decision was up to Pelosi or to other members of Congress on whether to travel to Taiwan. 

“As we have said, the speaker has the right to visit Taiwan,” Kirby told reporters in the White House briefing room. “A speaker of the House has visited Taiwan before without incident, as have many members of Congress over the years, including this year.” 

With Pelosi’s visit unfolding, China announced a series of military exercises and drills beginning Tuesday night in the waters and skies near Taiwan. China’s state-run media reported that the People’s Liberation Army would conduct live-fire drills Thursday through Sunday in at least six locations.

China also suspended importation of fish and produce from Taiwan

“Some American politicians are playing with fire on the issue of Taiwan,” Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said in a written statement. “This will definitely not have a good outcome … the exposure of America’s bullying face again shows it as the world’s biggest saboteur of peace.”

Pelosi made the stop as part of a larger Asian tour that also included Singapore, Malaysia, South Korea, and Japan. She leads a delegation of House Democrats that includes House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Gregory Meeks of New York, House Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman Mark Takano of California, and Reps. Suzan DelBene of Washington, Raja Krishnamoorthi of Illinois, and Andy Kim of New Jersey.

Taiwan, with a population of about 23 million, was established by Chinese nationalists in 1949 after the communists took over the sprawling mainland nation, where the current population is about 1.4 billion.

Taiwan’s government officially refers to itself as the Republic of China, in contrast to the mainland communist country’s name, the People’s Republic of China. Beijing not only considers Taiwan part of its territory, it long has considered annexing it by force.

This report was updated to include Pelosi’s remarks Wednesday morning.

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