Nancy Pelosi, the Speaker of the United States House of Representatives, lauded Taiwan on Friday, reaffirmed US assistance, and said that her journey around Asia, which resulted in unprecedented military exercises by an enraged China, was never about upsetting the regional status quo.
Pelosi and a congressional delegation were in Japan as part of an Asian tour that included an unannounced stop in Taiwan, the self-ruled island that Beijing considers its own – prompting an enraged Beijing to hold live-fire drills in waters around Taiwan, with five missiles landing in Japan’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ).
Her journey to Taiwan, the highest-level visit by a US official in 25 years, comes at a time when Tokyo, one of Washington’s closest allies, has become more concerned about China’s rising might in the Indo-Pacific and the threat of military action against Taiwan.
“We have said from the start that our representation here is not about changing the status quo in Taiwan or the region,” she said after meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida.
“The Chinese government is not pleased that our friendship with Taiwan is a strong one,” she continued.
“It is bipartisan in the House and in the Senate, overwhelming support for peace and the status quo in Taiwan.”
China has criticised Pelosi’s tour, which included stops in Singapore, Malaysia, South Korea, Taiwan, and Japan.
According to China’s official television, the military drills, which started on Thursday – the day after Pelosi departed Taiwan – and are scheduled to culminate on Sunday, will be the biggest ever held in the Taiwan Strait. The drills included live firing on the ocean and in the airspace around the island.
Japan said that five of the nine missiles launched at its territory fell inside its exclusive economic zone (EEZ). Tokyo launched a diplomatic complaint in response to the event, which Defence Minister Nobuo Kishi described as “unprecedented.”
Pelosi praised Taiwan’s democracy, economic prosperity, and – in a veiled shot at China – its human rights record, citing Taiwan’s support for LGBTQ rights as the first Asian government to legalize same-sex marriage.
“The fact is, I have said it again and again, if we do not speak out for human rights in China because of commercial interests, we lose all moral authority to speak out about human rights any place in the world,” she added.
“China has some contradictions – some progress in terms of lifting people up, some horrible things happening in terms of the Uyghurs. In fact, it’s been labelled a genocide.”
Human rights organizations accuse Beijing of discriminating against Xinjiang’s Uyghur ethnic population, which China denies.
Pelosi departed Japan on Friday afternoon for the United States.