Nancy Pelosi full of praise, support for Taiwan; China infuriated

US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi left Taiwan on Wednesday after pledging solidarity and hailing its democracy, leaving a trail of Chinese anger over her brief visit to the self-ruled island that Beijing claims as its own. China demonstrated its outrage over the highest-level US visit to the island in 25 years with a burst of military activity in surrounding waters, summoning the US ambassador in Beijing and halting several agri imports from Taiwan.

Some of China’s planned military exercises were to take place within Taiwan’s 12 nautical mile sea and air territory, according to Taiwan’s defence ministry, an unprecedented move a senior defence official described to reporters as “amounting to a sea and air blockade of Taiwan”.

Pelosi arrived with a congressional delegation on her unannounced but closely watched visit late on Tuesday, defying China’s repeated warnings, in what she said shows unwavering U.S. commitment to Taiwan’s democracy.

“Our delegation came to Taiwan to make unequivocally clear that we will not abandon Taiwan,” Pelosi told Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen, who Beijing suspects of pushing for formal independence – a red line for China.

“Now, more than ever, America’s solidarity with Taiwan is crucial, and that’s the message we are bringing here, today,” she said during her roughly 19-hour visit.

A long-time China critic, Pelosi met with a former Tiananmen activist, a Hong Kong bookseller who had been detained by China, and a Taiwanese activist recently released by China. Fury on the mainland over the 82-year-old Democrat’s defiance of Beijing was evident all over Chinese social media, with one blogger railing: “this old she-devil, she actually dares to come!”