Pelosi Avoids Public Comments on Taiwan and China in South Korea!
After infuriating China over her trip to Taiwan, U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi met South Korean political leaders in Seoul on Thursday but avoided making direct public comments on cross-Strait relations that could have further increased regional tensions.
Pelosi, who is the first sitting House Speaker to visit Taiwan in 25 years, said on Wednesday in Taipei that the U.S. commitment to democracy on the self-governing island and elsewhere “remains ironclad.” In response, China said it would start the biggest military exercises aimed at Taiwan in more than 25 years.
After visiting Taiwan, Pelosi and other members of Congress flew to South Korea on Wednesday evening. South Korea is a key U.S. ally where about 28,500 American troops are stationed. It was the last stop on an Asian tour that also took them to Singapore and Malaysia.
She met South Korean National Assembly Speaker Kim Jin Pyo and other senior members of Parliament on Thursday. After that hour-long meeting, Pelosi spoke about the bilateral alliance, forged in blood during the 1950-53 Korean War, and legislative efforts to support a push to boost ties but didn’t directly mention her Taiwan visit or the Chinese protests.
“We also come to say to you that a friendship, a relationship that began from urgency and security, many years ago, has become the warmest of friendships,” Pelosi said in a joint news conference with Kim. “We want to advance security, economy, and governance in the inter-parliamentary way.” Neither Pelosi nor Kim took questions from journalists.
Kim said he and Pelosi shared concerns about North Korea’s increasing nuclear threats. He said the two agreed to support their governments’ push to establish denuclearization and peace on the Korean Peninsula based on both strong deterrence against North Korea and diplomacy.
A South Korean official said that Pelosi planned to visit a border area between the two Koreas controlled by the U.S.-led U.N. Command and North Korea. The official asked not to be named because he wasn’t allowed to talk to the media about the matter.
If that visit happens, Pelosi would be the most important American to go to the Joint Security Area since President Trump met with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un there in 2019.
The JSA is inside the 4-kilometer-wide (2.5-mile-wide) Demilitarized Zone, which was made as a buffer at the end of the Korean War. It is a place where there has been fighting in the past and where many talks have taken place. Presidents and other high-ranking U.S. officials have often gone to the JSA and other border areas to reassure South Korea of their security commitment.
Any statement critical of North Korea by Pelosi is certain to draw a furious response from Pyongyang. On Wednesday, the North’s Foreign Ministry slammed the United States over her Taiwan trip, saying that “the current situation clearly shows that the impudent interference of the U.S. in internal affairs of other countries.”
Pelosi will speak by phone Thursday afternoon with South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol, who is on vacation this week, according to Yoon’s office. No face-to-face meeting has been arranged between them. Yoon, a conservative, took office in May with a vow to boost South Korea’s military alliance with the United States and take a tougher line on North Korean provocations.
China is upset about Pelosi’s trip to Taiwan, which it sees as a breakaway province that should be taken back by force if necessary. China thinks that when foreign officials go to Taiwan, they are recognising its sovereignty.
During a meeting with Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen on Wednesday, Pelosi gave a short speech in which she said, “Today, the world has to choose between democracy and autocracy.” “America is still dead set on keeping democracy here in Taiwan and everywhere else in the world.”
The Biden administration and Pelosi have said the United States remains committed to the so-called one-China policy, which recognizes Beijing but allows informal relations and defense ties with Taipei. The administration discouraged but did not prevent Pelosi from visiting.
The military exercises that China launched in response to Pelosi’s Taiwan visit started Thursday, the Chinese military said. They were expected to be the biggest aimed at Taiwan since 1995 when China fired missiles in a large-scale exercise to show its displeasure over a visit by then-Taiwanese President Lee Teng-hui to the U.S.
China has already sent fighter jets and other types of warplanes toward Taiwan and stopped citrus and fish from Taiwan from entering China.
Beijing’s military exercises, some of which will take place in Taiwanese waters, were met with strong opposition from Tsai.
“Facing deliberately heightened military threats, Taiwan will not back down,” Tsai said at her meeting with Pelosi. “We will firmly uphold our nation’s sovereignty and continue to hold the line of defense for democracy.”
Thursday, Taiwan’s Defense Ministry said that the Chinese drills were “unreasonable actions to change the status quo and destroy peace and stability in the region.”
“Our national military will continue to raise its level of alertness, and each squadron will do its daily training as usual in its usual places of operation,” the report said.
John Kirby, a spokesman for the National Security Council in Washington, tried to calm fears. He told ABC’s “Good Morning America” on Wednesday that U.S. officials “don’t think we’re on the edge right now, and there’s no reason for anyone to talk about being on the edge in the future.”
Pelosi said, in response to Beijing’s threats, that she hopes it’s clear that, even though China has kept Taiwan from attending some international meetings, they won’t stop people from coming to Taiwan to show friendship and support.
Pelosi said that both parties in Congress support Taiwan, and she praised the democracy on the island. She didn’t say that the U.S. would defend Taiwan with military force, but she did say that Congress is “committed to the security of Taiwan” so that Taiwan can best protect itself.
The Association of Southeast Asian Nations, made up of 10 countries, asked for calm in the Taiwan Strait on Thursday and told anyone not to do anything “provocative.” ASEAN foreign ministers who were in Phnom Penh, Cambodia for a regional forum said they were worried that the situation could “destabilize the region and lead to miscalculations, serious confrontations, open conflicts, and unforeseeable results among major powers.”
Pelosi’s focus has always been the same, she said, going back to her 1991 visit to Beijing’s Tiananmen Square, when she and other lawmakers unfurled a small banner supporting democracy two years after a bloody military crackdown on protesters at the square. That visit was also about human rights and what she called dangerous technology transfers to “rogue countries.”
The trip by Pelosi made U.S. Because she is the leader of the House of Representatives, she thinks about tensions with China more than trips by other members of Congress. Newt Gingrich was the last speaker of the House to go to Taiwan. That was in 1997.
China and Taiwan split up in 1949 after a civil war. They have no official ties, but they do business together that is worth billions of dollars.