By Elise Ann Allen
ROME (Crux) — Taiwan’s ambassador to the Holy See has condemned China’s retaliation for the recent visit of U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to Taiwan, saying the decision by Chinese officials to launch missiles into their air and water space is inflammatory, juvenile, and dangerous for the entire region.
In a statement sent in response to Crux’s request for comment, Taiwanese Ambassador to the Holy See, Matthew Lee, said he “strongly condemns the Chinese government for following the example of North Korea in willfully test-firing missiles into waters near other countries,” and he demanded that China “exercise self-restraint.”
Over the past six days, China has been sending military aircraft and unmanned drones into areas near Taiwan and Japan’s westernmost islands in response to Pelosi’s visit.
Pelosi, the most senior U.S. politician to visit Taiwan in 25 years, traveled to the island Wednesday, where she met Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen and other leaders in the capital city of Taipei.
Her visit, made as part of a wider tour of Asia, enraged Beijing officials, who had warned her not to travel to the island.
Taiwan is self-governed; however, China sees the island as a breakaway province that will eventually be united with the mainland. The U.S. does not formally recognize Taiwan, however, it offers consistent support, including the sale of weapons.
At a press conference in Tokyo during the final leg of her Asia tour, Pelosi said Friday that China has sought to isolate Taiwan from the international community, but that it would not prevent U.S. officials from visiting.
“We will not allow (China) to isolate Taiwan. They are not doing our travel schedule,” she said.
In his remarks to Crux, Lee said seven U.S. senators and seven other U.S. representatives, including Pelosi, have visited Taiwan this year alone.
“A visit by a U.S. House Speaker is not unprecedented, and visits by foreign government officials and legislators are routine occurrences in democratic countries,” he said.
China’s allegations that the visit was a violation of their sovereignty and that it damaged the peace and stability of the Taiwan Strait and their decision to launch live-fire military exercises on these grounds was “childish,” Lee said.
He called the military exercises “a far cry from the way a civilized society should behave,” saying behavior such as this “has led to the escalation of tensions in the region and concerns from across the international community.”
China’s attempt “to manufacture a crisis is a serious provocation, and this is clear for all to see,” he said, insisting that despite China’s claim that Pelosi’s visit was a violation of the status quo of the Taiwan Strait, Taiwan “is not part of the People’s Republic of China and that the latter has never ruled Taiwan.”
“This is a historical fact recognized by the international community and has long been the cross-Strait status quo,” he said, saying the people of Taiwan “have a right to make friends across the globe, and (China) has no right to interfere.”
Following Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi described it as “manic, irresponsible and irrational.”
In response to the visit, China launched its largest ever military exercises in the region. Taiwan has said that 11 ballistic missiles crossed into the waters around Taiwan’s northeast and southwest coasts. Japanese officials have said at least five Chinese missiles also landed in their waters and called for an immediate halt to the exercises.
Furthering tensions, China on Friday announced fresh countermeasures against the United States, including, among other things, the suspension of climate talks, the cancelation of future phone calls and meetings between Chinese and U.S. defense leaders, and personal sanctions against Pelosi and members of her immediate family.
In his statement to Crux, Lee accused China of using Pelosi’s visit as an excuse to roll out “coercive economic and trade measures,” saying it is Chinese authorities themselves who are “overturning the status quo and the peace in the Taiwan Strait.”
He reiterated remarks made by Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen in an address to the people on Aug. 4, saying peace in the Taiwan Strait “is the shared responsibility of everyone in the region.”
Taiwan, he said, “is doing its utmost to uphold the cross-Strait status quo and remains open to a constructive dialogue.”
“As a responsible stakeholder in the international community, Taiwan will not be provoked into taking rash action and will remain calm in the face of (China’s) irresponsible behavior whilst safeguarding our sovereignty and national security,” Lee said.
He called on the international community to collectively condemn China’s actions and to work with Taiwan to “jointly uphold the rules-based international order and a free and open Indo-Pacific region.”
Lee echoed a statement from G7 Foreign Ministers calling for “calmness, restraint, and transparency across the Taiwan Strait” and voiced his gratitude to G7 foreign ministers and the High Representative of the European Union “for reaffirming their commitment to maintaining the rules-based international order,” and peace in the region.
In an appeal to the international community, Lee voiced his hope that China would immediately cease its “continuous escalation” of military threats and said Taiwan “firmly defends” its sovereignty and national security.
He asked that members of the international community “come together to put a halt to these unilateral and irrational military actions, insisting that Taiwan will work with “those in the region and democratic partners around the world to uphold peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait and the Indo-Pacific region.”
“We thank the global press and the international community for acknowledging the importance of the visit, and we call on all countries to monitor the security of the Taiwan Strait,” Lee said, adding that Taiwan “is happy to deepen exchange with like-minded democratic countries, to ensure a free, open and peaceful Indo-Pacific region.”