China vows 'targeted military operations' after Nancy Pelosi arrives in Taiwan despite warnings

ITV News Correspondent Ben Chapman has the latest developments on Nancy Pelosi's controversial visit to Taiwan

US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi arrived in Taiwan on Tuesday night in a move that significantly escalated tensions with China, which claims the self-ruled island as its own territory.

Third in line for the presidency after Joe Biden and vice-president Kamala Harris, she became the highest ranking US official to visit Taiwan in 25 years when she landed in the capital Taipei at 10:45pm local time.

Ms Pelosi, 82, arrived at Songshan airport, in the city's downtown, and was greeted by foreign minister Joseph Wu and the top US representative in Taiwan, Sandra Oudkirk.

The US House of Representatives speaker is greeted by Taiwan's Foreign Minister Joseph Wu. Credit: Taiwan Ministry of Foreign Affairs via AP

Taiwan's President Tsai Ing-wen will meet with Ms Pelosi on Wednesday morning and then have lunch together, according to the presidential office.

The Democratic speaker, whose trip gained rare bipartisan support back home, framed the visit as part of a broader mission at a time when “the world faces a choice between autocracy and democracy".

"Our congressional delegation's visit to Taiwan honors America's unwavering commitment to supporting Taiwan's vibrant democracy," the US House of Representatives speaker said in a statement after landing.

"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."

People walk past a billboard welcoming U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, in Taipei. Credit: AP

Shortly after Ms Pelosi’s arrival, a representative of the Chinese legislature’s Standing Committee issued a statement saying the trip “severely violated” the “One China principle,” which is Beijing’s claim to be the sole government of both mainland China and Taiwan.

As ITV News Asia Correspondent Debi Edward notes, China has now announced it will conduct live-fire drills from Thursday to Sunday in the waters surrounding Taiwan.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry has released a statement saying no matter who Ms Pelosi meets or what she does her visit is a major provocation.

“The Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) is on high alert and will launch a series of targeted military operations to counter this, resolutely defend national sovereignty and territorial integrity, and resolutely thwart external interference and ‘Taiwan independence’ separatist attempts,” China's ministry of defence said in a statement condemning the trip.

The PLA said maneuvers would take place starting on Tuesday night in the waters and skies near Taiwan and include the firing of long-range ammunition in the Taiwan Strait.

Before Ms Pelosi's arrival, unidentified hackers launched a cyberattack on the Taiwanese Presidential Office’s website, making it temporarily unavailable on Tuesday evening.

The Presidential Office said the website was restored shortly after the attack, which overwhelmed it with traffic. “China thinks by launching a multi-domain pressure campaign against Taiwan, the people of Taiwan will be be intimidated. But they are wrong,” Wang Ting-yu, a legislator with the Democratic Progressive Party, said on Twitter in response to the incident.

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A plane carrying Ms Pelosi, who is on an Asian tour this week, and her delegation left Malaysia on Tuesday after a brief stop, which included a working lunch with the country’s prime minister, Ismail Sabri Yaakob. 

The stop to Taipei was unannounced and reportedly not included on the official itinerary of the highly-anticipated diplomatic tour, which included Singapore, Japan, Malaysia, and South Korea.

Amid growing tensions, US officials have said the American military will increase its movements in the Indo-Pacific region during the speaker’s trip.

The Biden administration did not explicitly tell Ms Pelosi to call off the visit - but has instead sought to assure Beijing it would not signal any change in American policy on Taiwan.

Ms Pelosi attended a working lunch with Malaysia's Prime Minister, Ismail Sabri Yaakob, during her visit to the country. Credit: AP

Although it has no official diplomatic relations with Taiwan, the US is bound by American law to provide the island with the means to defend itself.

As relations between Washington and Beijing deteriorate, there have been reports of high levels of movement and preparations among the Chinese, Taiwanese and US militaries.

Four US warships were stationed in waters east of Taiwan on what the American Navy described as routine deployments.

'This could quickly become the conflict that nobody wants,' ITV News Asia Correspondent Debi Edward reports live from Pingtan Island, across from the Taiwan Strait

Meanwhile, several Chinese warplanes flew close to the line dividing the Taiwan Strait on Tuesday morning, before leaving later in the day, a source told Reuters.

Taiwan’s Defence Ministry said early on Wednesday that China had sent 21 planes flying toward the island, 18 of them fighter jets.

The rest included an early warning plane and an electronic warfare plane.

Since last week, China's PLA has been stepping up displays of military strength.

Live-fire drills in the South China Sea, Yellow Sea and Bohai Sea were among the exercises carried out.