Here’s why top U.S. officials like Nancy Pelosi don’t usually go to Taiwan

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) arrived in Taiwan on Tuesday evening for the highest-level visit by a U.S. official to the self-governing island in decades.

Pelosi began her trip to Asia on Sunday without disclosing whether Taiwan was on the itinerary. But China, which claims Taiwan as part of its territory, reacted to the reports of a potential visit with fury, with state media warning that Beijing could respond with military force.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) landed in Taipei, Taiwan, on Aug. 2, defying Chinese warnings against visiting the self-ruled island. (Video: The Washington Post)

Pelosi met with Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen in Taipei, pledging to protect Taiwan against aggression. In an apparent subtle dig at China, the House speaker also met with human rights activists at the National Human Rights Museum in Taipei. She and her delegation left less than 24 hours after arriving in Taiwan.

Pelosi’s visit drew Chinese ire, as China’s claims over Taiwan form a fundamental part of the ruling Communist Party’s ideology.

While support for Taiwan has been an important rallying cry in Washington, senior U.S. officials have rarely — if ever — visited. The last high-ranking U.S. official to visit Taiwan was then-House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) in 1997.

Here’s what you need to know.