American observers weigh pros and cons of Pelosi's visit to Taiwan

08/03/2022 03:52 PM
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U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is pictured when she visited the Legislative Yuan Wednesday. CNA photo Aug. 3, 2022
U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is pictured when she visited the Legislative Yuan Wednesday. CNA photo Aug. 3, 2022

Taipei, Aug 3 (CNA) U.S.-based commentators expressed mixed views about the visit to Taiwan by House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi, with the main fault line touching on whether the risks of her stopover outweighed its potential benefits.

Pelosi, along with a U.S. congressional delegation, arrived in Taipei late Tuesday for a brief stay, defying Beijing's repeated warnings that it would take a series of targeted military actions in response to her visit.

Prior to Pelosi's arrival in Taiwan, New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman said such a visit would be "utterly reckless, dangerous and irresponsible."

"Taiwan will not be more secure or more prosperous as a result of this purely symbolic visit, and a lot of bad things could happen," Friedman wrote in his column on Aug. 1.

These include a Chinese military response that could result in the U.S. being plunged into indirect conflicts with a nuclear-armed Russia and a nuclear-armed China at the same time, contended Friedman, a Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist.

The timing of Pelosi's visit to Taiwan "could not be worse" as it deliberately provokes China when the U.S. and its European allies are trying to keep Beijing from providing military assistance to Russia in its invasion of Ukraine, Friedman said.

"In short, this Ukraine war is SO not over, SO not stable, SO not without dangerous surprises that can pop out on any given day," Friedman wrote. "Yet in the middle of all of this we are going to risk a conflict with China over Taiwan, provoked by an arbitrary and frivolous visit by the speaker of the House?"

Friedman said he believed it was a vital U.S. national interest to defend Taiwan's democracy in the event of an unprovoked Chinese invasion, but if the U.S. was going to get into a conflict with Beijing, "at least let it be on our timing and our issues."

"This is not the time for poking at China, especially considering what a sensitive time it is in Chinese politics," he wrote, referring to the upcoming 20th Chinese Communist Party Congress expected to give Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) a historical third term in office.

In contrast, Ian Easton, senior director at the American think tank Project 2049 Institute, considered Pelosi's visit an important step forward in normalizing the diplomatic relationship between the U.S. and Taiwan.

Easton said the aggressive behaviors China has engaged in over the years have destabilized the region and even the world.

It is time to recognize that Beijing has been trying to alter the cross Taiwan Strait status quo, including in acting against the three US-China Joint Communiques that have long guided the U.S.'s one China policy and has rendered the documents outdated, he said.

Bonnie Glaser, the director of the Asia program at the German Marshall Fund in Washington, believed more was at stake, however.

She called the trip ill-timed and said the Biden administration would find it "very difficult to recover" relations with China in its wake, according to a New York Times report on Aug. 2.

As support for Taiwan grows in the U.S. Congress, Xi may be worried that the Biden administration "is moving toward supporting Taiwan independence," Glaser was quoted as saying.

"I think they want to stop this slippery slope, the slide toward Taiwan independence, and I think they feel compelled to bolster their red lines to let the United States know that they are not kidding," Glaser was quoted as saying.

Washington Post columnist Josh Rogin said Beijing's response to the visit could forever change the U.S.-China relationship and subject Taiwan to longer-term pain.

Beijing's near-term retaliation will likely be aimed at Taiwan's economy and society, while it will likely use Pelosi's visit as an excuse to make changes to its military posture toward Taiwan over the longer term, Rogin wrote in a Washington Post column on Aug. 2.

Rogin suggested, however, that Beijing's overreaction to Pelosi's visit might result in Taiwan and other countries accelerating their own plans to reduce their dependence on China.

"Beijing's use of economic coercion and military aggression are only set to rise over time. Therefore, the international effort to bolster Taiwan militarily, economically and diplomatically must increase accordingly," Rogin concluded.

Separately, Miles Yu (余茂春), who served as an advisor on China policy for former U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, told CNA in an interview that China's threats of retaliation over the visit by Pelosi would be "self-destructive."

Pelosi's visit to Taiwan, Asia's most vibrant democracy and most poignant symbol of freedom, carries extra weight in highlighting the true nature of the China-Taiwan tensions, which is an epic battle between the Chinese Communist Party's tyranny and the world's democracies, Yu argued.

Her essential message should be that the people of Taiwan are not alone, and that the world's democracies share a common destiny in the face of threats from freedom's enemies, Yu said.

(By Ozzy Yin, Stacy Hsu and Shih Hsiu-chuan)

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Update

Aug. 8: China's Yellow Sea drills won't affect Taiwan int'l flights: MOTC

Aug. 7: China sends 66 warplanes, 14 warships around Taiwan Sunday

Aug. 6: 20 Chinese warplanes, 14 warships deployed around Taiwan: MND

Aug. 6: U.S., Japan, Australia urge China to stop military drills

Aug. 5: 68 Chinese warplane, 13 warship sorties recorded around Taiwan: MND

Aug. 5: International flights avoiding Taipei FIR due to China drills: Official

Aug. 5: China's drills a 'new normal' aimed at changing status quo: Experts

Aug. 4: President Tsai calls China's live-fire drills 'irresponsible act'

Aug. 4: 22 Chinese aircraft cross Taiwan Strait median line as PLA launches military drills

Aug. 4: China fires 11 Dongfeng ballistic missiles into waters off Taiwan: MND

Aug. 4: China cannot stop world leaders from visiting Taiwan: Pelosi

Aug. 4: G7, EU urge China to refrain from 'aggressive military activity'

Aug. 3: China's military exercises aimed at blockading Taiwan: defense ministry

Aug. 3: Pelosi departs Taiwan after whirlwind visit

Aug. 3: Pelosi, TSMC Chair Liu discuss semiconductor chips: Legislator

Aug. 3: Activists meet with Pelosi at Taiwan's National Human Rights Museum

Aug. 3: Taiwan one of world's freest societies: Pelosi

Aug. 2: Visit to honor 'unwavering' U.S. commitment to Taiwan: Pelosi

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