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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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.

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

Pelosi's trip comes amid rising US-China tensions over Taiwan

Tensions between China and the United States have been rising for years — and Taiwan is one of the major flash points.

Beijing's ruling Communist Party claims Taiwan as part of its territory and has repeatedly vowed to "reunify" the island of 24 million people with the Chinese mainland, despite having never governed it.

China's authoritarian turn under leader Xi Jinping and plummeting relations with Washington have pulled Taiwan closer into the orbit of the US. This has infuriated Beijing, which has responded by turning up the pressure on Taiwan.

US President Joe Biden speaks during a news conference with Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida at Akasaka Palace on May 23 in Tokyo.
US President Joe Biden speaks during a news conference with Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida at Akasaka Palace on May 23 in Tokyo. (Evan Vucci/AP)

Biden's comments: In May, US President Joe Biden warned that the US would defend Taiwan against Chinese aggression.

The White House quickly downplayed the comments, saying they did not reflect a change in US policy. However, that was the third time in recent months that Biden had said the US would protect Taiwan from a Chinese attack, only to have the White House walk back his remarks.

His comments were met with anger from China, which warned in May that it would not allow any external force to interfere in its "internal affairs."

Why Pelosi's visit matters: Taiwan has seen a flurry of visits by American delegations in recent years, especially since the Taiwan Travel Act was signed into law by then-US President Donald Trump in March 2018. Since then, US officials and lawmakers have taken more than 20 trips to the island, according to a CNN tally.

China, meanwhile, has sent record numbers of war planes near Taiwan, as cross-strait tensions soared to their highest in recent decades.

Pelosi had previously planned to lead a US congressional delegation to Taiwan in April, but the trip was postponed after she tested positive for Covid-19. At the time, China had strongly opposed the trip and issued similar warnings.

9:22 p.m. ET, August 2, 2022

Pelosi's plane to Taiwan took a longer route than a regular flight

The US air force jet carrying US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi to Taiwan became the most watched flight on live air traffic tracking website Flightradar24 on Tuesday evening, after the flight departed the Malaysian capital Kuala Lumpur. 

More than 700,000 users were monitoring the flight as it landed at Taipei Songshan Airport around 10:45pm Tuesday evening, the tracking portal said, adding that more than 2.92 million users followed at least a portion of the flight between Kuala Lumpur and Taipei, breaking Flightrader24 tracking records. The flight was not confirmed to be carrying Pelosi until after it touched down.

Instead of a typical route, which sends flights over the South China Sea for a roughly 4.5 hour journey from Taipei to Kuala Lumpur, the US jet instead cut a wide path eastward around the Philippines in its approach of Taiwan, according to flight tracker data. It landed after roughly seven hours in the air.

The route saw the plane steer clear of a long leg flying northeast over the South China Sea, where China has building up its military presence in recent years. 

Pelosi, who is leading a congressional delegation in Asia, had not included a stop in Taiwan in her official itinerary, though expectations that she was planning a visit have fuelled US-China tensions since reports of a potential trip emerged last month.