With House Speaker Nancy Pelosi expected to land in Taiwan later Tuesday, Chinese planes and warships “squeezed” the imaginary line dividing the Taiwan Strait in a “very provocative” move, Reuters reported.
Beijing has repeatedly warned against Pelosi (D-Calif.) going to the island nation, which it claims as its own, while the US has said that it would not be intimidated by Chinese “saber-rattling”.
On Tuesday, Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi predicted that US politicians who “play with fire” on the Taiwan issue will “come to no good end,” according to a ministry statement which did not mention Pelosi by name.
Chinese aircraft spent Tuesday morning repeatedly conducting tactical moves in which they briefly “touched” the so-called “median line” dividing Beijing and Taipei’s airspace and maritime territory before circling back to the other side of the strait, a source briefed on the matter told Reuters. The person added that Taiwanese aircraft were on standby nearby while the exercises were performed.
The Chinese planes left the area Tuesday afternoon but Beijing’s ships remained, the person said. Neither side’s aircraft normally cross the median line.
Taiwan’s Defense Ministry said in a statement it has a full grasp of military activities near the island and will appropriately dispatch forces in reaction to “enemy threats”.
In the southeastern Chinese city of Xiamen, which lies opposite Taiwan and is home to a large military presence, residents reported sightings of armored vehicles on the move on Tuesday and posted pictures online.
Meanwhile the US Navy has positioned four warships, including an aircraft carrier, in waters east of Taiwan on “routine” deployments.
The carrier USS Ronald Reagan had crossed the South China Sea and was currently located in the Philippine Sea, east of Taiwan and south of Japan, Navy officials confirmed to Reuters on Tuesday.
The Japan-based Reagan is operating alongisde a guided missile cruiser, USS Antietam, and a destroyer, USS Higgins.
“While they are able to respond to any eventuality, these are normal, routine deployments,” insisted the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
The amphibious assault ship USS Tripoli was also in the area as part of a deployment to the region that started in early May.
Pelosi was expected to arrive in the Taiwanese capital Tuesday night local time and was scheduled to take part in a series of meetings Wednesday. In the morning, she is due to meet with Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen, a person familiar with her itinerary said.
In the afternoon, according to four sources, Pelosi was scheduled to meet a group of activists who have criticized China’s human rights record.
Following her Taiwan stay, Pelosi and five of her Democratic colleagues are expected to travel onto South Korea and Japan. The first two stops on her itinerary were Singapore and Malaysia.
Taiwan’s modern history dates to 1949, when the Nationalist government of Chiang Kai-shek retreated across the Taiwan Strait following its defeat at the hands of the Communists in the Chinese Civil War.
Washington does not have official diplomatic ties with Taiwan, but is bound by US law to provide the island with the means to defend itself. The US currently practices a so-called “One China” policy, in which it acknowledges, but does not recognize, Beijing’s claim to Taiwan.
The White House has dismissed China’s rhetoric as groundless and inappropriate, although President Biden said on July 20 that the US military believed a possible Pelosi visit to Taiwan was “not a good idea now.”
“We will not take the bait or engage in saber-rattling,” National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told reporters Monday. “At the same time, we will not be intimidated. We’ll keep operating in the seas and the skies of the Western Pacific, as we have for decades.”
With Post Wires
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