House Speaker Nancy Pelosi‘s 24-hour visit to Taiwan — and China‘s furious and ongoing reaction — are making for some delicate diplomacy as the California Democrat concludes her Asian tour with stops in South Korea and Japan.
Speculation in Seoul was running high after President Yoon Suk-yeol declined to interrupt his summer vacation to meet in person with Mrs. Pelosi and her delegation of House Democrats. South Korean officials said Mr. Yoon’s work break had been scheduled well in advance and that the president did speak with Mrs. Pelosi by phone during her stop.
The Korea Times noted there was widespread talk in Seoul that the president nixed a face-to-face meeting because he was wary of further inciting China, which is the country’s biggest trading partner as well as the only major ally of North Korea.
A “key official” in Mr. Yoon’s office denied that was the case, saying planning to host Mrs. Pelosi‘s delegation had been set two weeks ago, before the surprise visit to Taipei this week.
Given Mr. Yoon’s vacation plans, “we had said it would be difficult to meet,” the official said, “and Washington replied favorably that it fully understands the situation.”
The official added that Mr. Yoon offered to have the talk by phone.
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The reception was different in Japan, where the U.S. lawmakers arrived Thursday. The Kyodo news service said Mrs. Pelosi was slated to meet with Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and with her counterpart in the Japanese legislature, House of Representatives Speaker Hiroyuki Hosoda.
Japanese defense officials said five of the ballistic missiles fired by the Chinese military near Taiwan in protest of the Pelosi visit had landed within Tokyo’s claimed exclusive economic zone just hours before the Americans arrived.
There was more diplomatic fallout for Japan. China‘s foreign minister on Thursday canceled a planned meeting with his Japanese counterpart on the sidelines of the ASEAN summit being held in Cambodia, citing Japan‘s signing on to a Group of 7 statement Wednesday criticizing China‘s response to the Taiwan visit.
It would have been the first face-to-face dialogue between the ministers of the two East Asian neighbors in nearly two years.