TAIPEI, Taiwan – News media and crowds gathered at Taipei Airport, Tuesday, to watch the arrival of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the highest-ranking US official, who has been visiting Taiwan for 25 years.
Huang Zhaoyuan, a 53-year-old company owner, monitored the area near Songshan Airport to watch Ms Pelosi’s plane land, describing the spokesperson’s visit as a “historic moment.”
“I am very excited to visit her today, because it is an example that shows that the United States does not need to discuss with the Chinese Communist Party, they can come here if they want, and anyone whom Taiwan invites can come here,” Ms. Huang said, using an acronym for CCP. “This incident demonstrates the independence of Taiwan.”
Henry Chang, 32, a videographer who was at the airport to witness Ms Pelosi’s landing, marveled at the novelty of seeing a high-ranking US lawmaker arrive.
“It felt like I had caught a rare Pokemon,” he said.
He said he was not worried that the visit could lead to a military conflict. “I feel like war simply can’t happen – everyone is going to get on with their lives,” he said.
Video provided by a Tibetan activist, Tashi Tsering, showed people gathering Tuesday night outside the Grand Hyatt Taipei hotel, where Pelosi was expected to spend the night. A number of them held banners reading “Taiwan people welcome US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi”, “Taiwan helps” and “Taiwan – China”.
Outside the hotel, dozens of pro-United People with China protested Pelosi’s visit: some demanded she “get out of Taiwan,” and some carried banners denouncing her.
“I am bitter when I watched Pelosi go down,” said Sam Lane, a man in the crowd who is the owner of the recycling company. “It’s sad to see rising tensions across the strait, but I’m also excited to see our reunification with China become more achievable.”
“I don’t want to see a war, but the current cross-strait relations have reached another stage,” added Mr. Lin, 50.
Contrary to the protest, in the capital’s central business district, Taipei 101 – once the world’s tallest building and a major landmark on the city’s skyline – lit up with messages welcoming Ms. Pelosi.
In Taiwan, many are used to threats from China, which claims the island is its territory. The standoff between Washington and Beijing over the spokesman’s trip received scant attention before Tuesday. Taiwan’s president, Tsai Ing-wen, remained silent in the days before Ms Pelosi’s arrival, although political advisers close to her said they would welcome visits by US officials.
Referring to the number of people who are tired of Taiwan China threatsAlexander Huang, a senior official of the China-friendly Kuomintang, said he would welcome Ms Pelosi’s visit and that she had a “rich” schedule waiting for her on the island.
During her visit, Ms. Pelosi is scheduled to visit Taiwan’s legislature and meet with President Tsai Ing-wen, according to a Taiwanese lawmaker and a local official. She is also scheduled to attend a banquet at a Taipei guesthouse and visit the National Human Rights Museum.
Mr. Huang said the visit’s simple approach reflects planning designed to avoid aggravating the already tense situation with China.
“They did not make any statement to the outside world, try not to antagonize the other party, and did their best to make the situation in the Taiwan Strait not so tense,” he said.
He said he was very concerned about the military response from mainland China — in particular, what China might do after Pelosi leaves. He said China could take steps to isolate Taiwan internationally. In recent years, China has attracted many countries that recognize Taiwan as a country and isolate it from major international agencies such as the World Health Organization.
On Tuesday, Taiwan’s military said it would boost combat readiness in anticipation of a possible response from China.