Show caption Liz Truss said Beijing was using Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan ‘to draw a line in the sand and I think that shows how worried they are’. Photograph: Jacob King/PA Foreign policy Truss hits out at China’s ‘inflammatory’ reaction to Pelosi’s Taiwan visit UK foreign secretary calls US House speaker’s trip ‘perfectly reasonable’ and urges China to de-escalate Aubrey Allegretti @breeallegretti Wed 3 Aug 2022 16.19 BST Share on Facebook
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Liz Truss has criticised China’s “inflammatory” response to a senior US politician visiting Taiwan and called for a de-escalation ahead of military drills expected over the coming days.
Hours after the US House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, ended a historic trip to the island about 100 miles east of China, the UK foreign secretary said her meetings with human rights activists and others were “perfectly reasonable”.
Beijing reacted with hostility to Pelosi’s visit, announcing a series of “military operations” including missile tests and live-fire exercises in the waters around Taiwan scheduled to begin on Wednesday night.
As Pelosi travelled to the next leg of her tour of east Asian countries, Truss expressed support for the decision to visit the self-ruled nation, which China sees as a breakaway province.
“I do not support China’s inflammatory language on this issue,” said Truss, speaking on a visit to Ludlow, Shropshire, as part of her campaign to become the next Conservative leader and prime minister.
“It’s perfectly reasonable what is taking place and I urge China to de-escalate.”
Truss also sought to play down the suggestion that she is the clear frontrunner in the race to replace Boris Johnson.
A latest poll of Conservative members by YouGov released on Wednesday put Truss nearly 40 points ahead on 69% to Rishi Sunak’s 31%. Only 39% of the Tory grassroots believe the party will win a majority at the next election under Truss, compared with 19% under Sunak’s leadership.
Truss said she was “not taking anything for granted” and added: “There is still a long way to go in this leadership election.”
Both she and Sunak will address Tory members at a hustings in Cardiff on Wednesday night.
Truss remains foreign secretary and has sought to rubbish Sunak’s bid to appear tough on China.
Earlier, the Conservative MP and Sunak supporter Alicia Kearns said the Chinese Communist party had tried to make Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan a “flashpoint”.
She told BBC Radio 4’s World at One: “They’ve placed this enormous strategic importance on the visit when they could actually have just dismissed it out of hand as nothing more than a political stunt or a low-level delegation.
“But they’re choosing to use it to draw a line in the sand and I think that shows how worried they are and how important this is for Xi Jinping as he attempts to reconsolidate his position going into the 20th national congress of the Chinese Communist party.”
MPs on the Commons foreign affairs select committee intended to visit Taiwan later this year, Kearns confirmed.
“We visit allies all over the world, we also visit our friends and we try to understand the biggest issues facing our country and also international security,” she added.
During her trip to Taiwan, Pelosi pledged “crucial” support from the US, adding the White House was “committed to the security of Taiwan”.
“It’s about our shared values of democracy and freedom and how Taiwan has been an example to the world,” she said.