US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi lands in Taiwan amid China threats

US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi landed in Taiwan on Tuesday evening in defiance of Chinese threats, making her the highest-ranking American politician to visit the island in 25 years.

As tensions grew, four US warships, including an aircraft carrier, were positioned in waters east of Taiwan. The US Navy called it routine deployments.

Meanwhile, Chinese planes flew close to the median line dividing the waterway on Tuesday morning and several Chinese warships had remained close to the unofficial dividing line since Monday. In the southeastern Chinese city of Xiamen, which lies opposite Taiwan and is home to a large military presence, residents reported sightings of armoured vehicles on the move on Tuesday and posted pictures online. The images could not immediately be verified by Reuters.

Barricades were erected outside the Grand Hyatt Hotel in Taipei where Pelosi was expected to stay amid heightened security. The Speaker is expected to meet Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen on Wednesday.

Shortly after landing in Taiwan, the Speaker said that the US delegation’s visit to Taiwan “honors America’s unwavering commitment to supporting Taiwan’s vibrant Democracy”.

“Our discussions with Taiwan leadership reaffirm our support for our partner and promote shared interests, including advancing a free and open Indo-Pacific region,” Pelosi said, adding: “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.”

“Our visit is one of several Congressional delegations to Taiwan – and it in no way contradicts longstanding United States policy, guided by the Taiwan Relations Act of 1979, U.S.-China Joint Communiques and the Six Assurances,” said Pelosi.

“The United States continues to oppose unilateral efforts to change the status quo,” she added.