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In Korea, Pelosi avoids public comment on Taiwan, China

Seoul, South Korea — After angering China with her trip to Taiwan, US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi met South Korean political leaders in Seoul on Thursday but avoided making direct public comment on the relationship. relations with Beijing and Taipei could increase regional tensions further.

Pelosi, the first House speaker to visit Taiwan in 25 years, said Wednesday in Taipei that America’s commitment to democracy in the self-governing island and elsewhere “remains limited.” In response, China on Thursday began military exercises, including missile strike training, in six areas around Taiwan, possibly its largest since. since the mid-1990s.

After visiting Taiwan, Pelosi and other members of her congressional delegation flew to South Korea – a key US ally where about 28,500 US troops are deployed – on Wednesday night, as a Part of the Asia tour included earlier stops in Singapore and Malaysia.

She met with South Korean National Assembly Speaker Kim Jin Pyo and other senior members of the National Assembly on Thursday. After that hour-long meeting, Pelosi talked about the bilateral alliance, forged during the 1950-1953 Korean War, and legislative efforts to advance ties, but did not mention the trip directly. her Taiwan visit or China protests.

“We also want to tell you that a friendship, (relationship) that began with urgency and security, many years ago, has turned into the warmest of friendships,” Pelosi said at a joint news conference. with Kim. “We want to promote security, economics and governance in an inter-parliamentary way.”

Neither Pelosi nor Kim took questions from journalists.

Kim said he and Pelosi share concerns about North Korea’s growing nuclear threat. He said the two sides agreed to support their governments’ push for denuclearization and peace on the Korean Peninsula based on both strong deterrence against North Korea and diplomacy.

Ms. Pelosi and her delegation later spoke by phone with South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol about the alliance, foreign policy and other issues. Yoon is on vacation this week, but critics accuse him of deliberately avoiding a face-to-face meeting with Pelosi because of ties to China, South Korea’s biggest trading partner. Yoon’s office said it was reviewing the national interests and that Yoon’s vacation plans were established when, about two weeks ago, Pelosi’s side contacted his office about a possible meeting. out.

During the phone conversation, Pelosi and other members of her congressional delegation did not mention the Taiwan issue and Yoon did not raise the issue, Yoon’s office said.

In recent years, South Korea has struggled to strike a balance between the United States and China as their rivalry deepens. Yoon, a conservative, took office in May vowing to forge South Korea’s military alliance with the United States and take a tougher line on North Korean provocations.

Late on Thursday, Pelosi visited the border area with North Korea that is jointly controlled by the United Nations Command, which is led by the United States and jointly controlled by North Korea, South Korean officials said. If that visit goes ahead, Pelosi will be the highest-ranking American to the Joint Security Area since President Donald Trump visited in 2019 for a meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

Yoon said Pelosi’s visit to the JSA would demonstrate the allies’ “strong deterrence against North Korea,” said Kim Tae-hyo, the president’s deputy national security adviser.

South Korean media, without citing sources, later reported that Pelosi had visited the JSA but gave no further details. The US Embassy in Seoul, United Nations Command and South Korea’s Defense Ministry could not immediately confirm the reports.

Located inside the 4 km (2.5 mi) wide Demilitarized Zone, a buffer zone created at the end of the Korean War, the JSA has been the site of bloodshed in the past and the site of many negotiations. The US president and other top officials often travel to the JSA and other border areas to reaffirm their security commitment to South Korea.

Any statement criticizing North Korea by Pelosi is sure to provoke a backlash. On Wednesday, North Korea’s foreign ministry criticized the United States for her trip to Taiwan, saying that “the current situation clearly shows that the United States’ brazen interference in the internal affairs of the DPRK is clear.” other countries… (is) the root cause of peace and security disturbed in the land.”

On Thursday night, Pelosi flew to Japan, the final leg of her Asia tour.

The Chinese military exercise took place on Thursday and is expected to last until Sunday with the participation of the navy, air force and other departments. These include missile strikes on targets in the waters north and south of the island in echoes of China’s last major military exercises intended to intimidate leaders and voters. tri Taiwan in 1995 and 1996.

China’s official Xinhua news agency said the drills were joint operations focusing on “blockade, attack on sea targets, attack on ground targets and control the airspace”.

Taiwan has put its military on alert and held civil defense exercises, while the US has plenty of naval assets in the region. Taiwan’s Defense Ministry called China’s drills “unreasonable actions aimed at changing the status quo and destroying regional peace and stability”.

China considers Taiwan a breakaway province to be annexed by force if necessary. It regards visits to Taiwan by foreign officials as recognition of its sovereignty.

“Today the world faces a choice between democracy and autocracy,” Pelosi said in a brief speech during a meeting with Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen on Wednesday. “American determination to preserve democracy, in Taiwan and around the world, remains unsuccessful.”

The Biden and Pelosi administrations said the United States remained committed to the “one China policy,” recognizing Beijing as China’s sole, legitimate government but allowing informal and defense ties with China. Taipei. The administration intervened but did not prevent Pelosi from visiting.

Pelosi noted in Taiwan that congressional support for Taiwan is bipartisan, and she praised the island’s democracy. She stopped short of saying that the US would defend Taiwan militarily and stressed that Congress was “committed to the security of Taiwan, so that Taiwan can most effectively defend itself”.

Tsai said at the meeting with Pelosi that “faced with deliberately heightened military threats, Taiwan will not back down.”

National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told ABC “Good Morning America” ​​on Wednesday that American officials “do not believe we are at the brink now, and certainly have no reason to.” There’s no reason for anyone to talk about being on the brink in the future.”

On Thursday, the Association of 10 Southeast Asian Nations called for calm in the Taiwan Strait, which separates mainland China and Taiwan, and called for any “provocative actions” to be avoided. ASEAN foreign ministers, meeting in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, for a regional forum, said they were concerned the situation could “destabilize the region and could eventually lead to miscalculation and serious confrontation. important, open conflict and unpredictable consequences between great powers”.

Pelosi’s focus has always been the same, she said, going back to her 1991 visit to Beijing’s Tiananmen Square, when she and other lawmakers unfurled a small pro-democracy banner two years later. the army’s bloody crackdown on protesters in the square. That visit was also about human rights and what she called dangerous technology transfers to “rogue countries.”

China and Taiwan, which split in 1949 after a civil war, have no formal relations other than a billion-dollar business relationship.

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Wu reports from Taipei, Taiwan. Associated Press journalist David Rising in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, contributed to this report.

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