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Amid Rising Regional Tension After Her Taiwan Visit, Pelosi Meets Political Leaders in Seoul

Any statement critical of North Korea by Pelosi is certain to draw a furious response from Pyongyang.
Nancy Paloci

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Seoul: US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi met top South Korean political leaders on Thursday, a day after she concluded her high-profile visit to Taiwan by renewing Washington's “ironclad” commitment to “defending democracy”on the self-governing island despite vehement protests from China.

Regional tensions are rising following Pelosi's Taiwan trip, with China reportedly preparing to launch its “largest military manoeuvres” aimed at Taiwan in more than a quarter of a century in response.

After visiting Taiwan, Pelosi and other members of Congress flew to South Korea — a key US ally where about 28,500 American troops are deployed — on Wednesday evening, as part of an Asian tour that included stops in Singapore and Malaysia. After South Korea, they will travel to Japan.

On Thursday, Pelosi met South Korean National Assembly Speaker Kim Jin Pyo and other senior members of Parliament for talks on regional security, economic cooperation and climate issues. Before their talks, live TV footage showed Kim and Pelosi bumping elbows and posing for a photo in front of South Korean and US national flags.

Later in the day, Pelosi planned to visit an inter-Korean border area that is jointly controlled by the American-led UN Command and North Korea, a South Korean official said requesting anonymity because he wasn't authorised to speak to media on the matter.

If that visit occurs, Pelosi would be the highest-level American to go to the Joint Security Area since then-President Donald Trump went there in 2019 for a meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

Sitting inside the 4-km (2.5-mile) -wide Demilitarized Zone, a buffer created at the end of the 1950-53 Korean War, the JSA is the site of past bloodshed and a venue for numerous talks. US presidents and other top officials have often travelled to the JSA and other border areas to reaffirm their security commitment to South Korea.

Any statement critical of North Korea by Pelosi is certain to draw a furious response from Pyongyang. On Wednesday, the North's Foreign Ministry slammed the United States over her Taiwan trip, saying that “the current situation clearly shows that the impudent interference of the US in internal affairs of other countries”.

Also on Thursday afternoon, Pelosi will speak by phone with South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol, who is on a vacation this week, according to Yoon's office. No face-to-face meeting has been arranged between them. Yoon, a conservative, took office in May with a vow to boost South Korea's military alliance with the United States and take a tougher line on North Korean provocations.

Pelosi's Taiwan visit, the first by an incumbent House speaker in 25 years, has infuriated China, which views the island nation as a breakaway province to be annexed by force if necessary. China views visits to Taiwan by foreign officials as recognising its sovereignty.

The Biden administration and Pelosi have said the United States remains committed to the so-called one-China policy, which recognises Beijing but allows informal relations and defence ties with Taipei. The administration discouraged but did not prevent Pelosi from visiting.

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