The Taiwanese leader praised the Speaker of the US House of Representatives for her unconditional support for the island.

Amid fierce protests from Beijing, US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi reiterated Washington’s commitment, solidarity and determination to protect democracy in Taiwan, during a meeting with the leader of the House of Representatives. island, Tsai Ing-wen, in Taipei on Wednesday.

“The speaker’s courage and actions are deeply inspiring and moving,” Tsai said, according to the South China Morning Post, when presenting Pelosi with a highest-ranking civilian award, the Order of Auspicious Clouds with Special Grand Cordon, for her strong stance on “safeguard freedom, democracy and human rights”.

Accepting the award, Pelosi said that Washington “we will not abandon our commitment to Taiwan”, while praising Tsai as a role model “female president in one of the freest societies in the world”.

In turn, Tsai promised to remain a trusted American partner and “firmly uphold the sovereignty of our nation and continue to hold the line of defense of democracy at the same time.”

The ceremony took place shortly after Pelosi held a closed-door meeting with Vice President Tsai Chi-chang and other members of Taiwan’s parliament on Wednesday.

The visit of the third figure of the US government to the island, which Beijing considers an inalienable part of Chinese territory, provoked a harsh reaction on the mainland.

After Pelosi landed on Tuesday, China’s Foreign Ministry said the trip would have a “severe impact on the political basis of China-US relations” and “seriously violates China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.” The ministry also summoned US Ambassador Nicholas Burns to lodge an official protest and warn that Washington “will pay the price.”

Meanwhile, the Chinese Defense Ministry announced a series of military exercises and live-fire drills in six major sea areas and their airspace around Taiwan.

Pelosi is the first Speaker of the US House of Representatives to visit Taiwan in more than two decades. Taiwan, which officially calls itself the Republic of China (ROC), has been self-governing since the 1940s but has never officially declared independence from Beijing.

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