House Speaker Nancy Pelosi became the highest-ranked American lawmaker to visit Taiwan in 25 years Tuesday—and China reacted exactly as expected. Beijing, which considers Taiwan its territory, slammed the move as a "serious violation" after Pelosi arrived in Taipei. The country's foreign ministry summoned Nicholas Burns, the American ambassador to Beijing, to register what it said were "strong protests" about the visit, the BBC reports. China’s defense ministry said the military had been put on "high alert" and announced that there would be several days of live-fire military exercises in six locations surrounding Taiwan after Pelosi leaves, reports the Guardian.
Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said the announcements from China were "unfortunately right in line with what we had anticipated," the Washington Post reports. Kirby said there is no reason for "Beijing to turn this visit, which is consistent with long-standing US policy, into some sort of crisis, or use it as a pretext to increase aggressiveness and military activity in or around the Taiwan Strait." He added: "We are prepared to manage what Beijing chooses to do. At the same time, we will not engage in saber-rattling."
Analysts say that while the exercises will temporarily block some Taiwanese ports, China appears to be planning a show of strength but not an invasion of the island, reports the New York Times. But with tensions high, there is a chance that an accidental encounter between the Chinese and Taiwanese militaries that could spark a conflict. In a fiery editorial, the state-run Global Times said "forces like Pelosi" could not stop "full reunification" of the mainland and Taiwan—and she should pay a price for the "reckless" visit. "We should make people like Pelosi understand that Taiwan is not a place where they can visit at will," the editorial said. (Pelosi says the visit should be seen as a statement "that America stands with Taiwan, our democratic partner.")