A US military aircraft with US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on board prepares to land at Sungshan Airport in Taipei on August 2, 2022. - Pelosi landed in Taiwan on August 2 evening, defying days of increasingly stark warnings from China that have sent tensions between the world's two superpowers soaring. (Photo by Sam Yeh / AFP)

US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi has landed in Taiwan and was greeted at the airport by Secretary of State Joseph Wu. Her visit is highly controversial. China has mobilized its military and held drills.

There is also criticism in the USA, since the visit to China could unnecessarily provoke and provide pretexts for the escalation of the conflict with Taiwan. Pelosi took off from Malaysia on Tuesday morning in a US Air Force aircraft.

Immediately after their landing, China accused the government in Washington of “playing with fire,” according to the AFP agency. The US actions in Taiwan are “extremely dangerous,” the Chinese Foreign Ministry said in a statement on Tuesday evening.

“Whoever plays with fire will perish,” the ministry said.

Several Chinese warplanes were spotted earlier Tuesday morning near the border line in the sensitive Taiwan Strait, a person familiar with the matter told Reuters on Tuesday.

In addition, several Chinese warships have been patrolling near the unofficial buffer zone in the strait since Monday. Both the Chinese warships and the planes touched the center line of the waterway. The maneuver is unusual and “very provocative”. Taiwan has dispatched planes to monitor the situation.

In addition, China has gathered large amounts of military material in the coastal city of Xiamen in Fujian province, as photos and videos from Tuesday morning show. Xiamen is only about 100 kilometers away from Taiwan. Videos show numerous tanks patrolling the beach amid bathers.

According to local media, Pelosi will meet the President of Taiwan, the Minister of Defense and the person in charge of national security.

Meanwhile, China said it was in contact with the United States about the Pelosi case. This was announced by the Foreign Ministry in Beijing on Tuesday, but without giving any details. The status of Taiwan is one of the main points of contention between the US and the People’s Republic.

Taiwan’s Defense Ministry in Taipei earlier said that if tensions rose, appropriate forces would be deployed in response to “enemy threats”. Taiwan has a full view of military activity around it.

China’s communist government regards free Taiwan as part of its territory and threatens “unification”, if necessary militarily. When Russia launched its war of aggression against Ukraine in February, fears were raised that China might attempt to annex the island’s democratic republic by force.

The Defense Ministry in Taipei said it has the “determination, capability and confidence” to ensure Taiwan’s national security. Various unspecified plans for an emergency have already been drawn up.

Shortly before Pelosi’s arrival, unknown hackers paralyzed Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen’s website. The President’s Office in the capital Taipei confirmed a failure for around 20 minutes on Tuesday afternoon. Countermeasures have been taken so that the website is now working normally again.

The Chinese leadership reacted very nervously to reports of an upcoming visit – and did not rule out military answers: A visit to Taiwan by Pelosi would be “blatant interference in China’s internal affairs,” China’s foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said at a press conference in Beijing on Monday.

He spoke of a “very serious situation and consequences” for the United States. The Chinese side is fully prepared for all eventualities. “The People’s Liberation Army will not stand by, and the Chinese side will surely take vigorous and decisive measures to protect our sovereignty and territorial integrity,” Lijian said.

China’s state media have been discussing military responses for days, ranging from China’s air force escorting Pelosi’s plane and maneuvers to even establishing a no-fly zone around Taiwan and missile tests. Relations between China and the United States “are almost on the razor’s edge,” wrote the party-affiliated newspaper “Global Times” on Twitter.

“The countermeasures that the high command is planning to deal with Pelosi’s possible visit to Taiwan must be far more rigorous and comprehensive than can be imagined. China’s warning to the US is not idle talk,” it said.

The White House, however, warned Beijing of an escalation. “There is no reason for Beijing to turn a potential visit, consistent with longstanding US policy, into a crisis or conflict,” National Security Council communications director John Kirby said at the White House on Monday.

The US would not engage in “saber rattling,” he said. “At the same time, we won’t let ourselves be intimidated either.” According to Kirby, the visit will change “nothing” about the United States’ one-China policy. The US does not maintain official diplomatic relations with Taiwan, but regards Beijing as China’s legitimate representative.

Pelosi is the highest-ranking US political visitor to Taiwan in 25 years. Newt Gingrich, also Speaker of the House of Representatives, last visited the island in 1997.

Pelosi originally wanted to travel in April, but she had to cancel the trip because of her corona disease. What is unusual about the speaker’s trip to Taiwan is that she would not have announced it beforehand.

Meanwhile, EU diplomats are also alarmed about the situation. In view of China’s threats, MEPs Michael Gahler (CDU) and Reinhard Bütikofer (Greens), who specialize in Taiwan and China, are calling for solidarity with Taiwan and want to visit the island this year.

In the EU, too, “the parliament is the driving force in Taiwan policy”. The executive is acting more cautiously, Bütikofer, who heads the European Parliament’s (EP) delegation for relations with China, says of the disagreement between Pelosi and Biden over whether their visit plan is a good idea or an unnecessary provocation.

Gahler sees no acute danger of war. “China is not prepared for war. It watches whether the West backs down on Russia in Ukraine or stops aggression.” He is the EPP’s foreign policy spokesman in the EP and chairman of the “Formosa Club”, the friendship groups of democratic parliaments with Taiwan.

Gahler and Bütikofer are calling for an EU investment agreement with Taiwan. An investment agreement would give European companies better market access in Taiwan, and the construction of a Taiwanese semiconductor factory in the EU would become more likely. In December they want to talk about it with the trade committee of the EP in Taiwan. The EU has negotiated a trade agreement with China. It is on hold due to political differences.

Gahler and Bütikofer warn against moving away from the “One China” policy. The status quo must be defended. Diplomatic recognition of Taiwan is out of the question. “But Europe must not retreat when Beijing moves the red lines,” says Bütikofer.

“A pragmatic partnership with Taiwan makes sense for us.” The “scaremongering” about Pelosi’s visit reflects “Xi Jinping’s increasingly nationalistic focus.” China wants to dictate Taiwan policy to the US, Japan and Europe. “Giving in would be a mistake.”