Pelosi avoids mention of Taiwan or China in South Korea for next stop of Asia tour

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Nancy Pelosi’s visit to China led to fury from Beijing (Getty Images)
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US House speaker Nancy Pelosi avoided making a direct mention of China and Taiwan on Thursday as she reached Seoul and met South Korean political leaders on the next leg of her Asia tour, in a sign of Washington abstaining from stoking further regional tensions with Beijing.

Addressing a joint news conference with her South Korean national assembly counterpart Kim Jin Pyo, Ms Pelosi said: "We also come to say to you that a friendship, a relationship that began from urgency and security, many years ago, has become the warmest of friendships."

“We want to advance security, economy and governance in the inter-parliamentary way,” Ms Pelosi said on Thursday in Seoul.

But the top US official did not bring up her visit to Taiwan, a diplomatic exercise that has triggered furious reactions from China. Shortly after her exit from Taipei on Wednesday night, a drone from mainland China was spotted hovering over Taiwan’s outlying group of islands Kinmen.

On Thursday morning, Taiwan accused China of firing ballistic missiles in unprecedented military drills in the waters surrounding the self-ruled island nation as Beijing kick-started hefty military exercises in six zones around Taiwan.

Several Dongfeng ballistic missiles were fired in waters close to the Matsu islands, Taiwan’s defence ministry said. These are China’s largest ever military drills in the Taiwan Straits and Beijing said they would continue until Sunday.

Ms Pelosi reached South Korea, a key US ally, on the third day of her Asia tour along with other members of her congressional delegation and met Mr Kim and other senior members of South Korean Parliament.

After her hour-long meeting, the US house speaker spoke about the bilateral ties which came about after the 1950-53 Korean war and the legislative efforts to boost them. However, Ms Pelosi did not speak about her visit to Taiwan, retaliatory military exercises by Beijing or the Chinese protests.

Neither she nor Mr Kim took questions from the reporters present at the briefing.

However, the South Korean assembly speaker said that he and Ms Pelosi agreed on concerns about increasing nuclear threat from North Korea.

The two leaders backed their administration’s push for denuclearisation and peace on the Korean peninsula in the wake of strong deterrence against North Korea and diplomacy.

The US house speaker and her delegation also spoke with the South Korean president Yoon Suk Yeol on phone where the two leaders discussed the US-Seoul ties, foreign policy among other issues.

Ms Pelosi and Mr Yoon did not bring up the Taiwan issue, the South Korean president’s office said.

Critics of Mr Yoon have slammed his decision to be on vacation this week, stating that he is intentionally avoiding a face-to-face meeting with the US leader in a bid not to worsen ties with China, which has aided the country as its biggest trading partner.

Later on Thursday, the US House speaker is expected to visit a border area neighbouring North Korea, marking the high-level American visit to go to the Joint Security Area after former president Donald Trump’s visit in 2019 where he met with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.

The Joint Security Area visit by Ms Pelosi would demonstrate "a strong deterrence against North Korea" by the allies, said Kim Tae-hyo, a deputy presidential national security adviser.

Regional tensions have spiked in Asia after the visit of Ms Pelosi to Taiwan. An incandescent Beijing called the visit a “manic, irresponsible and highly irrational” act.

The US House speaker is the highest-level US visitor to Taiwan in 25 years. She stayed in the country for less than 24 hours as part of a tour of Asia.

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