Twenty-seven Chinese warplanes flew into Taiwan’s air defence zone (ADZ) on Wednesday, Taipei said, as US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi made her controversial visit to the self-ruled island that Beijing considers its territory.
“27 PLA aircraft… entered the surrounding area of (Republic of China) on August 3, 2022,” the defence ministry said in a tweet.
Taiwan maintained a defiant tone as it hosted Pelosi, with a furious China gearing up for military exercises dangerously close to the island’s shores in retaliation for the visit.
Pelosi landed in Taiwan on Tuesday despite a series of increasingly stark threats from Beijing, which views the island as its territory and had said it would consider the visit a major provocation.
China responded swiftly, announcing what it said were “necessary and just” military drills in the seas just off Taiwan’s coast — some of the world’s busiest waterways.
“In the current struggle surrounding Pelosi’s Taiwan visit, the United States are the provocateurs, China is the victim,” Beijing’s foreign ministry said.
But Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen said the island of 23 million would not be cowed.
“Facing deliberately heightened military threats, Taiwan will not back down. We will… continue to hold the line of defence for democracy,” Tsai said at an event with Pelosi in Taipei.
She also thanked the 82-year-old US lawmaker for “taking concrete actions to show your staunch support for Taiwan at this critical moment”.
China tries to keep Taiwan isolated on the world stage and opposes countries having official exchanges with Taipei.
Pelosi, second in line to the presidency, is the highest-profile elected US official to visit Taiwan in 25 years.
“Today, our delegation… came to Taiwan to make unequivocally clear we will not abandon our commitment to Taiwan,” she said at the event with Tsai.
She added her group had come “in friendship to Taiwan” and “in peace to the region”.
Before leaving Taiwan, Pelosi also met with several dissidents who have previously been in the crosshairs of China’s wrath — including Tiananmen protest student leader Wu’er Kaixi.
“We are in high agreement that Taiwan is in the frontline (of democracy),” Wu’er said.
“Both the United States and Taiwan governments need to… conduct more in defending human rights.”
Pelosi’s delegation left Taiwan on Wednesday evening headed to South Korea, her next stop in an Asia tour. She will head to Japan after.