The situation across the Taiwan Straits has drastically escalated as the military deployment from the Chinese mainland, U.S. and the island of Taiwan continues creeping up, after US and Taiwan-based media disclosed that U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is expected to visit the island on Tuesday night.
Pelosi’s Taiwan visit is seen by China as a serious provocation and violation to China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity which would be met with severe countermeasures from the Chinese military.
Reports said: Several dozen demonstrators hit the streets in Taiwan protesting Pelosi’s visit.
China Issues Navigation Warning
According to the website of China’s Maritime Safety Administration, the Shandong Maritime Safety Administration issued a navigation warning, saying that the Weifang port in Bohai Sea will conduct live fire from 15:00 to 24:00 on August 3.
The Qinglan Maritime Safety Administration of South China’s Guangdong Province also issued a navigation warning due to conducting military training in parts of the South China Sea from Tuesday to Saturday.
Citing “officials”, Taiwan-based media on Monday said Pelosi is expected to land in Taipei on Tuesday evening and stay in Taipei overnight at the Grand Hyatt hotel in Xinyi district. CNN also released similar information, saying that “Pelosi is expected to visit Taiwan as part of her tour of Asia.”
China’s Live Fire Exercise
The Fujian Provincial Military Command neighboring Taiwan posted videos and pictures on Tuesday about a live-fire exercise, which aims to “test overall combat capability under complex conditions.” It said that the minuteman missile unit, anti-aircraft artillery unit, radar unit and other combat units participated in the exercise, the first time in recent years that a provincial military command has organized a multi-branch and multi-professional militia to conduct live fire.
Citing an anonymous source, the Reuters reported on Tuesday that several People’s Liberation Army (PLA) aircrafts flew close to the “median line” of the Taiwan Straits on Tuesday morning, following the Taiwan-based outlets that said two Chinese mainland guided-missile frigates and a survey ship sailed from north to south through Yonaguni Island waters, heading east of Taiwan island.
Several Flights Cancelled
As of Tuesday noon, flights at airports in several cities in Fujian province, including Xiamen, Fuzhou and Quanzhou, have been partially canceled, according to Xiamen Airlines, citing regional traffic control.
China’s Aircraft Carriers
Posting satellite pictures, some netizens on Twitter and Weibo said China’s aircraft carrier Liaoning has left East China’s Qingdao on July 31 heading southward, and the Shandong left South China’s Sanya on August 1, heading northward, speculating whether they are going to conduct dual carriers’ operations in the Taiwan Straits.
Xu Ying, executive officer of the Shandong, said in a separate CCTV report on Monday that the Shandong was conducting regular training mission at the time.
The PLA will conduct more dual aircraft carrier training in the future, Xu said.
The two aircraft carriers’ activities came at a time when overseas media reported that Pelosi could land in the island of Taiwan on Tuesday evening.
Local media on the island of Taiwan said that the Liaoning could head south and the Shandong could head north, surrounding the island of Taiwan from both directions to deter Pelosi.
It remains unknown if the PLA Navy aircraft carriers’ movements are related to Pelosi, but similar to how the US Navy uses its aircraft carrier to show deterrence, the PLA Navy’s aircraft carriers can also serve that purpose, a Chinese mainland military expert who requested anonymity told the Global Times on Tuesday.
Chinese Warplanes Flew Close To Median Line of Taiwan Strait
Citing a source briefed on the matter, Reuters reported that several Chinese warplanes had flown close to the median line of the Taiwan Strait early Tuesday. An exact number was not given.
Pelosi’s Possible Route Being Monitored
Some analysts said that as Pelosi’s aircraft may enter Taiwan’s self-claimed “air defense identification zone” along the east coast of Taiwan after departing from Malaysia, the Chinese mainland vessels appeared in an earlier time to occupy position and are closely monitoring Pelosi’s route.
U.S. Aircraft Carrier And Assault Ship
The USS Ronald Reagan reportedly escorting Pelosi is also approaching Taiwan island. A Beijing-based think tank, the South China Sea Strategic Situation Probing Initiative, said that the USS Reagan carrier strike group is already in nearby waters east of the Bashi Channel, the water between Philippine and Taiwan island.
Amphibious assault ship USS Tripoli is also near Japan’s island of Okinawa and amphibious assault ship USS America is deployed in Sasebo, Japan, according to the Nikkei.
The media noted that the U.S. Air Force has sent two HC-130J Combat King IIs to Okinawa from Anchorage, Alaska along with multiple KC-135 Stratotankers.
Pelosi’s aircraft has arrived in Malaysia, and data showed that U.S. government chartered plane SPAR20 also arrived in Malaysian airspace from Scott Air Force Base via Japan. Analysts said the move might serve to the escort mission during Pelosi’s Taiwan visit, or it may aim to replace Pelosi’s previous plane.
Taiwan-based media pointed out that given PLA’s reaction, Pelosi’s aircraft may not have direct access to “flight information region (FIR) of Taiwan,” but will be through the FIR of the Philippines, heading northeast to the U.S. Auckland Oceanic FIR in east of Taiwan island, and fly to Taipei through Japan’s FIR.
China Is Determined To Deliver Harsh Response
“We pay close attention to Pelosi’s route, and if the US acts without regard to the opinions of others, China will certainly take decisive and tough measures to protect sovereignty and security interests”, foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told a briefing.
At the same time, the diplomat said that China and the U.S. maintain close contacts at all levels and through various channels.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian on Monday sternly warned Pelosi’s potential visit to Taiwan, stressing that “the PLA will not sit idly by” and will take “resolute and strong countermeasures” to protect China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.
China’s Foreign Ministry said: U.S. to ‘pay the price’ for undermining China’s sovereignty.
Experts and analysts said that the PLA could send warplanes and warships to escort, intercept and drive away Pelosi’s flight if it indeed attempts to land on the island of Taiwan.
China has suspended food imports from Taiwan.
U.S. C-40C Left Malaysia
According to Flightradar service, Boeing C-40C with registration number 09-0540 left the capital of Malaysia at 7:42 GMT. It is unclear whether the American delegation with US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was on board.
Pelosi Was In Malaysia
Pelosi was in Malaysia on Tuesday, having arrived after visiting Singapore as part of her Asian trip. The U.S. lawmaker is expected to meet Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob and her counterpart in the Malaysian legislature Azhar Azizan Harun, local news agency Bernama reported.
The White House noted that she has the right to go to Taiwan, but also noted that the speaker neither confirmed nor denied the possibility of the trip.
China has repeatedly stated that the trip would infringe the one-China principle and jeopardize U.S.-China bilateral relations. China stressed it is ready to defend its state sovereignty and territorial integrity, warning Washington about dire consequences if Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan takes place.
Taiwan’s Military Drill
Taiwan authorities are preparing for the potential crisis caused by Pelosi’s visit. Local media on the island reported on Tuesday that the island’s military has entered a 3-day special “enhanced combat preparation period” from Tuesday morning to the noon of August 4, but the combat readiness level remains unadjusted to the peacetime period.
The military has also sent eight Mirage series fighter jets to the air force base in Taitung, increasing the totaling number of Mirage from 4 to 12 in the base. Besides, Chiayi base has sent the island’s helicopters air rescue group, dubbed “seagulls,” stationed in Taitung.
Taiwan’s military will hold live-fire artillery exercises in Pingtung County in the south of the island, from August 9 to August 11 as a continuation of the annual Han Kuang military exercises that ended last week, the Central News Agency (CNA) reported, citing sources familiar with the matter.
According to the agency, the artillery exercises will be held to strengthen the combat readiness of the Island’s armed forces. The CNA also said that maneuvers would include the use of M109 and M110 self-propelled howitzers.
The media added that the island’s armed forces would conduct another military exercise in Pingdong County on September 5, but this time involving the command of the Army Air Force and Special Forces and snipers of Taiwan’s combined arms battalions.
Beijing To See Any Biden Admin. Visit to Taiwan As Dangerous, Provocative, Says China’s UN Envoy
Any visit to Taiwan by US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi or the White House will be seen by Beijing as dangerous, Chinese Ambassador to the UN Zhang Jun said at a press briefing.
“Concerning the planned visit of Speaker Pelosi, China has repeatedly made our position very clear, and we have repeatedly expressed our serious concerns and firm opposition to such a visit. As we see it, a visit from the White House or from Pelosi, such a visit is apparently very much dangerous, very much provocative. If the US insists on making the visit, China will take firm and strong measures to safeguard our national sovereignty and territorial integrity,” he said on Monday at the beginning of the Chinese presidency of the Security Council.
U.S. Expects China Not to Escalate Tensions if Pelosi Visits Taiwan, Says Blinken
The U.S. is looking for China to act responsibly and avoid creating a crisis if Pelosi decides to visit Taiwan, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Monday at the UN.
Blinken said the State Department does not know what Pelosi intends to do but will respect any decision she makes.
Biden Did Not Directly Speak With Pelosi About Her Plans to Visit Taiwan
U.S. President Joe Biden did not directly speak with Pelosi about her plans to visit Taiwan but her potential trip there has been discussed in the national security circles, National Security Council Coordinator for Strategic Communications John Kirby said on Monday.
White House Denies U.S. Military Urged Pelosi Against Going to Taiwan
U.S. National Security Council Coordinator for Strategic Communications John Kirby on Monday dismissed reports that the U.S. military urged House Speaker Nancy Pelosi not to go to Taiwan.
“I don’t know that she was urged not to go. Who urged her not to go?” Kirby said during a press briefing.
On July 20, U.S. President Joe Biden said that “the military thinks it is not a good idea” for Pelosi to go to Taiwan.
Taiwan’s Foreign Ministry refused to comment potential visit of Pelosi.
Politico reported that the Pentagon is preparing for Pelosi’s potential Taiwan trip, and is likely to offer a military aircraft. Pelosi said on Friday that she wants Congress “to be part of Biden administration’s strategy in the Indo-Pacific,” according to media.
In view of the Taiwan tense situation, the Russian Foreign Ministry said: U.S. brings destabilization to the world.
The Taiwan Strait Crisis In 1995-1996
During the last Taiwan Strait crisis in 1995-1996, China launched missiles that landed near Taiwan and the U.S. sent two aircraft carriers into the region east of Taiwan.
At that time, the Chinese military was much less capable.