US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi visits Taiwan

By Jessie Yeung, Rob Picheta and Megan Trimble, CNN

Updated 12:26 p.m. ET, August 4, 2022
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8:26 p.m. ET, August 2, 2022

Beijing says Pelosi's visit will have a "severe impact" on US-China relations

US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan is a “serious violation of the one-China principle” which will have a “severe impact on the political foundation of China-US relations,” China’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement Tuesday after the speaker landed in Taipei.

The Taiwan Strait was "facing a new round of tensions and severe challenges," because of "repeated moves by the Taiwan authorities and the United States to change the status quo,” the statement said, before accusing the US of “attempting to use Taiwan to contain China.”

“[Pelosi's visit] gravely undermines peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait and sends a seriously wrong signal to the separatist forces for 'Taiwan independence.' China firmly opposes and sternly condemns this, and has made serious démarche and strong protest to the US,” the statement added. 

In its statement Tuesday, the Chinese Foreign Ministry also accused the US of working to "embolden 'Taiwan independence' separatist activities."

"These moves, like playing with fire, are extremely dangerous. Those who play with fire will perish by it," the statement read, repeating language used last week by Chinese leader Xi Jinping during a phone call with US President Joe Biden, where the issue of Taiwan was discussed at length.

Some context: In what is known as the "One China" policy, Washington recognizes the People’s Republic of China as the sole legitimate government of China; it also acknowledges Beijing's position that Taiwan is part of China, but has never accepted the Chinese Communist Party’s claim of sovereignty over the island. 

During their call last week, Biden told Xi during that US policy “had not changed,” according to a White House readout, and that the United States "strongly opposes" unilateral efforts to change the status quo or undermine peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait.

8:16 p.m. ET, August 2, 2022

It's 8:15 a.m. in Taipei, Taiwan. Here's what you need to know

US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi arrives in Taipei, Taiwan on Tuesday.
US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi arrives in Taipei, Taiwan on Tuesday. (Taiwan Ministry of Foreign Affairs/AP)

US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi landed in Taiwan Tuesday evening, marking a significant show of support for the self-ruled island despite China's threats of retaliation over the visit.

Here's the latest:

  • Pelosi's arrival: Pelosi and the US congressional delegation landed in Taipei late on Tuesday, greeted by the island's Foreign Minister Joseph Wu and a crowd of reporters. In a statement, Pelosi said the visit "honors America's unwavering commitment to supporting Taiwan's vibrant democracy."
  • China's response: The Chinese Foreign Ministry released a lengthy statement after her arrival, saying it would "definitely take all necessary measures to resolutely safeguard its sovereignty and territorial integrity." The visit "has a severe impact on the political foundation of China-U.S. relations," it warned.
  • Military exercises: China's military said it was on "high alert" and would conduct exercises around Taiwan in response to Pelosi's trip, saying in statements it was launching a series "targeted military operations to counteract the situation."
  • ADIZ incursions: Taiwan's Ministry of National Defense said 21 Chinese warplanes made incursions into its air defense identification zone (ADIZ) on Tuesday. In response, the Taiwanese military issued radio warnings and deployed air defense missile systems to monitor the activities, it added.
  • Pelosi's schedule: The House speaker is expected to visit Taiwan's presidential office, where she will meet Taiwan's President Tsai Ing-wen, and parliament on Wednesday morning local time, a senior Taiwanese official told CNN.
7:58 p.m. ET, August 2, 2022

In response to Pelosi visit, China says it will start "targeted military operations" around Taiwan

From CNN’s Shawn Deng, Yong Xiong and Hannah Ritchie 

China’s military will start exercises around Taiwan in response to US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to the self-governed island and launch a series of “targeted military operations to counteract the situation,” according to statements released by its Eastern Theater Command and Ministry of Defense Tuesday. 

An announcement from the People's Liberation Army Eastern Theater Command said beginning Tuesday night a series of exercises would be held on the sea and in the air surrounding Taiwan, the self-governed island that China says is its sovereign territory.

"This action is a solemn deterrent against the recent major escalation of the negative actions of the United States on the Taiwan issue, and a serious warning to the 'Taiwan independence' forces seeking 'independence,'" Col. Shi Yi, spokesman for the Eastern Theater Command, said in a statement.

The Eastern Theater is one of the five joint commands of the People's Liberation Army with jurisdiction over China’s eastern coastal provinces of Fujian and Zhejiang, which sit opposite and above Taiwan. 

In a separate statement, China’s Ministry of Defense confirmed that the Chinese army is on “high alert” and will “launch a series of targeted military operations” intended to “defend national sovereignty and territorial integrity.”

“China has repeatedly clarified the serious consequences of the visit to Taiwan, but Pelosi knowingly and maliciously provoked and created a crisis. The Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) is on high alert and will launch a series of targeted military operations to counteract the situation, resolutely defend national sovereignty and territorial integrity, and resolutely thwart the interference of external forces and 'Taiwan independence' secessionist schemes,” Ministry of Defense spokesperson Wu Qian said. 

In an unusual move, Chinese state media posted on Twitter a map showing six areas around Taiwan where it said the PLA would conduct drills, including live-fire exercises from Thursday through Sunday.

Some context: The Chinese military has been releasing videos and posting messages vowing to safeguard its “national sovereignty and territorial integrity” since the news of a possible Pelosi visit to Taiwan broke last month. 

Prior to Pelosi’s visit US officials said they were ready for China to continue to conduct potentially aggressive air or at-sea interactions with the US or allies in the region if the visit went forward, but did not expect direct hostile action from Beijing.

A security plan involving ships and aircraft was developed by the Pentagon to ensure Pelosi was kept safe while visiting Taiwan, several defense officials familiar with the matter told CNN last week.

7:54 p.m. ET, August 2, 2022

China summoned US ambassador to protest Pelosi's visit to Taiwan, state media says

From CNN’s Yong Xiong and Philip Wang

Chinese Deputy Foreign Minister Xie Feng late Tuesday night local time summoned the US Ambassador to China, Nicholas Burns, to protest Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan, Chinese state broadcaster CCTV reported on Wednesday. 

Xie accused Pelosi of “deliberately provoking and playing with fire against people’s will,” saying the nature of her act is “extremely egregious” and the consequence will be “extremely serious.” 

“Anyone who attempts to manipulate the Taiwan issue to gain political gain … will eventually be nailed to the pillar of shame in history,” Xie said, according to the state media report. 

He also said the US government has been “acting treacherous,” and it should have restrained Pelosi from “acting recklessly,” but it allowed her to continue her visit, which aggravated tensions across the Taiwan Strait and “seriously damaged China-U.S. relations.” 

Xie added that China will “take necessary and resolute countermeasures” and “do what we say.”

CNN has reached out to the US Embassy in China for comment. 

Some context: Following Pelosi's arrival, China's Foreign Ministry released a statement condemning the trip, saying it would have a "severe impact on the political foundation of China-US relations."

In an interview with CNN Tuesday evening, China’s ambassador to the US Qin Gang affirmed China’s rejection of the Pelosi trip, saying it would result in an escalation of tensions across the Taiwan strait and in US-China relations. 

7:35 p.m. ET, August 2, 2022

Pelosi's visit comes at a sensitive time for China

From CNN's Nectar Gan

A man uses a magnifying glass to read a newspaper headline reporting on US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's Asia visit at a stand in Beijing on Sunday, July 31.
A man uses a magnifying glass to read a newspaper headline reporting on US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's Asia visit at a stand in Beijing on Sunday, July 31. (Andy Wong/AP)

The visit to Taiwan by Nancy Pelosi, a high-profile critic of Beijing, comes at a sensitive time for China.

China's military, the People's Liberation Army, celebrated its founding anniversary on August 1, and Xi Jinping, the country's most powerful leader in decades, is preparing to break with convention and seek a third term at the ruling Communist Party's 20th congress this fall.

While the politically sensitive timing could trigger a stronger response from Beijing, the Communist Party could also want to ensure stability and prevent things from getting out of control, experts say.

"Honestly, this isn't a good time for Xi Jinping to provoke a military conflict right before the 20th Party congress. It's in Xi Jinping's interest to manage this rationally and not instigate a crisis on top of all the other crises he has to deal with," said Drew Thompson, a visiting senior research fellow at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy at the National University of Singapore.

Thompson pointed to China's slowing economy, deepening real estate crisis, rising unemployment, and constant struggle to curb sporadic Covid-19 outbreaks under its zero-Covid policy.

"So I think whatever they do, it will be measured, it will be calculated. They'll certainly attempt to put more pressure on Taiwan, but I think they'll stop well short of anything that's particularly risky, or that could create conditions that they can't control," he said.

But Shi Yinhong, an international relations professor at China's Renmin University, said it's hard to predict what China will do.

"It is a very difficult situation to deal with. Firstly, (Beijing) must resolutely take unprecedented countermeasures. Secondly, it must prevent military conflicts between the United States and China," he said. "We won't know how things will turn out until the last minute."

7:48 p.m. ET, August 2, 2022

Taiwan says China sent 21 warplanes into the island's air defense identification zone on Tuesday

From CNN’s Eric Cheung in Taipei, Taiwan and Wayne Chang in Hong Kong

Taiwan’s Ministry of National Defense says 21 Chinese warplanes made incursions into its air defense identification zone (ADIZ) on Tuesday, the same day US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and a US congressional delegation landed in Taipei.  

The incursions were made by 10 J-16 fighter jets, 8 J-11 fighter jets, one Y-9 electronic warfare aircraft, one Y-8 electronic intelligence aircraft, and one KJ-500 airborne early warning and control aircraft, the Taiwanese Defense Ministry said in a statement on Tuesday night.

In response, the Taiwanese military issued radio warnings and deployed air defense missile systems to monitor the activities, it added.

Some context: China frequently sends warplanes into Taiwan's self-declared ADIZ. The highest number of incursions ever recorded was on October 4 last year, when 56 military planes flew into the area on the same day.

An ADIZ is unilaterally imposed and distinct from sovereign airspace, which is defined under international law as extending 12 nautical miles from a territory’s shoreline.

7:35 p.m. ET, August 2, 2022

Here's a quick history of Taiwan and the Chinese civil war

Indigenous populations in Taiwan trace their history on the island back around 10,000 years, according to Encyclopedia Britannica.

However, since the 17th century, the island has been colonized by a series of powers — including the Dutch and Japanese — and indigenous groups now account for only about 2% of the population.

Dutch traders maintained a colony on the island for a few decades, using it as a base for trade with both China and Japan, but were driven out in the 17th century when Taiwan became part of the Chinese empire. Imperial China then ceded the island to Japan in 1895 after losing the First Sino-Japanese War.

The island remained a Japanese colony for half a century until the end of World War II, when it was returned to Chinese hands following the allied defeat of Japan. However, by this time Imperial China had long since fallen and the Chinese mainland was being ruled by a Nationalist government, led by the Kuomintang, or KMT, under the banner of the Republic of China.

The Chinese civil war: Not long after, the Nationalists came under renewed attack from an insurgent Chinese Communist Party.

The two sides entered into a bloody civil war that resulted in the eventual defeat of the Nationalists, who fled to Taiwan, moving the seat of the Nationalist government from Nanjing to Taipei.

On the Chinese mainland, the Communist Party took power and established the People's Republic of China.

Both the Nationalists and the Communists then proclaimed themselves to be the sole rightful government of the entire Chinese territory, covering both the mainland and Taiwan.

In Taipei, the Nationalist leader Chiang Kai-shek dreamed of one day retaking the mainland; In Beijing, Communist Party Chairman Mao Zedong deemed Taiwan the last piece to a united "new China."

Taiwan today: In recent years, Taiwan has downplayed its territorial claims over mainland China, and is today a vibrant democracy, with its own military, currency, constitution and elected government.

But few governments in the world recognize it as an independent country and Taipei has become increasingly isolated diplomatically.

Over the years, an increasing number of governments have switched their diplomatic recognition from Taipei to Beijing, leaving Taiwan with only 15 diplomatic allies at the end of 2021.

7:44 p.m. ET, August 2, 2022

Cyberattack hits Taiwan presidential office website

From CNN’s Wayne Chang

Websites of the Taiwan Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the English portal of the Taiwanese government experienced DDoS attacks of Russian and Chinese origin on Tuesday night local time, rendering them inaccessible temporarily, Foreign Ministry spokesperson Joanna Ou said.   

While parts of the websites are now viewable, the attack is ongoing and has resulted in longer loading time, Ou added.

Earlier on Tuesday, the Taiwan presidential office website experienced a DDoS attack of foreign origin, rendering it inaccessible temporarily, presidential spokesperson Xavier Chang said, without referencing where the attacks originated from. 

That attack began at 5:15 p.m. local time, with traffic hitting 200 times its usual level, Chang said, adding that the site went back online after 20 minutes.  

7:35 p.m. ET, August 2, 2022

A sitting US House speaker last visited Taiwan 25 years ago — when China was very different

From CNN's Nectar Gan

US House Speaker Newt Gingrich, right, speaks with Taiwanese President Lee Teng-hui at a meeting in Lee's office in Taipei on  April 2, 1997.
US House Speaker Newt Gingrich, right, speaks with Taiwanese President Lee Teng-hui at a meeting in Lee's office in Taipei on April 2, 1997. (Eddie Shih/Pool/AP)

This isn't the first time a sitting US House speaker has visited Taiwan.

In 1997, Newt Gingrich met Lee Teng-hui, the island's first democratically elected President, in Taipei only days after his trip to Beijing and Shanghai, where Gingrich said he warned Chinese leaders that the United States would intervene militarily if Taiwan was attacked.

According to Gingrich, the response he received at the time was "calm." Publicly, China's Foreign Ministry criticized Gingrich after his visit.

Beijing has indicated things would be different this time around.

Twenty-five years on, China is stronger, more powerful and confident, and its leader Xi Jinping has made it clear that Beijing will no longer tolerate any perceived slights or challenge to its interests.

"It's a completely different regime in Beijing with Xi Jinping. China is in a position to be more assertive, to impose costs and consequences to countries that don't take China's interest into consideration in their policymaking or actions," said Drew Thompson, a visiting senior research fellow at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy at the National University of Singapore.

"So in that respect, it's a very different China from when Newt Gingrich visited in 1997."

Former speaker backs Pelosi's trip: Gingrich recently weighed into the conversation, writing on social media: "What is the Pentagon thinking when it publicly warns against Speaker Pelosi going to Taiwan? If we are so intimidated by the Chinese Communists we can't even protect an American Speaker of the House why should Beijing believe we can help Taiwan survive. Timidity is dangerous."

Read more here.