After angering China with her visit to Taiwan, the Speaker of the United States House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi. She met with South Korean political leaders in Seoul on Thursday but avoided making direct public statements that could stoke already high regional tensions.
Pelosi, who is the first person in her charge to visit Taiwan in 25 years, said Wednesday in Taipei that the American commitment to democracy on the autonomous island and in other parts of the world “remains strong.” In response, China on Thursday launched military exercises, including missile launches, in six areas around Taiwan, in what could be its biggest such exercises since the mid-1990s.
Following the visit to the island, Pelosi and the other members of Congress accompanying her on the Asian tour flew to South Korea, a key Washington ally where some 28,500 US troops are deployed, on Wednesday night. The delegation, which has already visited Singapore and Malaysia, will make a final stop in Japan before returning to the United States.
In Seoul, Pelosi met with South Korean National Assembly Speaker Kim Jin Pyo and other senior members of Parliament on Thursday. After an hour-long meeting, the US president spoke about the bilateral alliance between the two nations, forged in blood during the Korean War in the early 1950s, and the legislative efforts to support the strengthening of those ties, but did not directly mention his stay in Taiwan or the Chinese protests.
“We also come to tell you that a friendship, a relationship that was born of urgency and security many, many years ago, has become the warmest of friendships,” Pelosi said during a joint news conference with Kim. advance in security, in the economy and in governance in an inter-parliamentary manner”.
Neither Pelosi nor Kim took questions from reporters.
Kim indicated that he and Pelosi share concerns about rising nuclear threats from North Korea. In addition, he noted that they agreed to support their governments’ efforts to achieve denuclearization and peace on the peninsula through strong deterrence against Pyongyang and diplomacy.
Pelosi and her delegation later spoke by phone with South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol about the alliance and foreign policy, among other issues. Yoon is on vacation this week, but critics accuse him of intentionally avoiding a face-to-face meeting with the US official out of consideration for China, the country’s biggest trading partner.
During the conversation, neither the US congressmen nor the South Korean president spoke about Taiwan, according to the presidential office.
In recent years, Seoul has tried to strike a balance between Washington and Beijing as the rivalry between the world’s two largest economies has heated up. Yoon, who is conservative, assumed the presidency in May with the promise of strengthening the military alliance with Washington and taking a tougher stance towards provocations from the neighboring country.
Later in the day, Pelosi is scheduled to visit an area of the inter-Korean border jointly controlled by North Korea and the US-led UN Command, South Korean officials said. If the visit materializes, she would be the highest-ranking US official to visit the Joint Security Area (JSA) since former President Donald Trump, who went there in 2019 to meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
Yoon said Pelosi’s visit to the JSA would demonstrate “strong deterrence against North Korea” by allies, said Kim Tae-hyo, deputy national security adviser to the presidency.
Located in the Demilitarized Zone, a 4-kilometer (2.5-mile) wide neutral zone created at the end of the Korean War, the JSA has seen bloodshed and talk. Presidents of the United States and other officials have traveled there and to other border areas to reaffirm their commitment to the security of the South.
Any statement by Pelosi critical of the North is likely to receive a furious response from Pyongyang. On Wednesday, the North Korean foreign ministry criticized Washington for the official’s trip to Taiwan, saying “the current situation clearly shows the brazen interference of the United States in the internal affairs of other countries.”
Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan angered China, which sees the island nation as a breakaway province that should be annexed by force if necessary. Beijing views visits by foreign leaders to Taipei as recognition of its sovereignty.
China and Taiwan, which split in 1949 after a civil war, have no official diplomatic ties but do have billion-dollar trade ties.