Reports out of Japan indicate that the United States has been moving aircraft carriers, large planes, and other assets closer to Taiwan to create a buffer zone in anticipation of the possibility that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her delegation will stop in Taiwan as part of their tour of Asian countries.
Nikkei Asia reported early Monday that while the U.S. military had been initially opposed to Pelosi visiting Taiwan it appears to be creating a buffer zone for Pelosi’s plane after China declared it would “never sit idly by” if she visits the island.
The news comes as CNN, quoting two unnamed sources, a senior government official from Taiwan and a U.S. official, reported Monday that Pelosi plans to visit Taiwan despite the threats from China about the visit and concerns from the Biden administration over China’s response. The official from Taiwan told CNN that Pelosi’s plans call for her to stay in Taiwan overnight, but it’s not clear when she would land in the country.
The U.S. official told CNN that Department of Defense officials are working to monitor Chinese movements in the region while securing a plan to keep the speaker safe.
The White House meanwhile did not comment to CNN Monday on whether the Pelosi stop had been confirmed.
John Kirby, the coordinator for strategic communications at the National Security Council, when asked on CNN’s “New Day” about Pelosi’s trip, said that “we’ll let her and her staff speak to this trip she’s on,” but did not confirm that she will stop in Taiwan.
“I’m not going to talk about security requirements,” Kirby said, “we want to make sure that when she travels overseas she can do so safely and securely, and we’re going to make sure of that.”
However, he said there is “no reason for the Chinese rhetoric” against a stop in Taiwan, as it is “not uncommon for congressional leaders to travel to Taiwan.”
“It is very much in keeping with our policy,” he said. “It is consistent with our support to Taiwan under the Taiwan Relations Act. As a country, we shouldn’t be intimidated by that rhetoric or those potential actions. This is an important trip for the speaker to be on, and we’re going to do whatever we can to support her.”
Meanwhile, “there has been no change to our focus” to keep the region “free and safe and open,” said Kirby.
“The United States has a lot of capacity across all levers of government power to make sure that we can do that,” he said.
Pelosi’s trip is an important one, though, as the region is “one of the most critical regions for our economy tied to the global economy,” said Kirby. “There are a lot of tensions geopolitically, not just because of China but because of North Korea and other tensions in the region, so there is a lot of business for the Speaker of the House to conduct on a trip like this. She can speak to her stops and what she’s trying to accomplish.”
Meanwhile, a reporter for the Taiwanese broadcasting network TVBS tweeted that Pelosi is expected to arrive in Taiwan Tuesday night, but did not name her sources.
Nikkei Asia is reporting that the naval assets in the region include the amphibious assault ship USS America, which has been forward-deployed to Sasebo, Japan, and the USS Ronald Reagan, returning to the South China Sea after its port call to Singapore last week. The amphibious assault ship USS Tripoli is also near Okinawa.
In addition, the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln, Landing Helicopter Dock USS Essex, and 36 other warships, along with three submarines, are currently in Hawaii participating in the Rim of the Pacific Exercise (RIMPAC), an activity scheduled to end Thursday, the publication notes.
Fight tracking websites are also showing that two U.S. Air Force HC-130J Combat King IIs, the branch’s only dedicated fixed-wing personnel recovery planes have come to Okinawa from Anchorage, accompanied by multiple KC-135 Stratotankers, used for aerial refueling.
Before dawn on Monday local time, Pelosi and her delegation touched down in Singapore, according to flight tracking websites following her plane.
Monday afternoon, also local time, Singapore’s foreign ministry issued a statement saying Pelosi’s delegation met with Prime Minister Lee Hsein Loong and other officials.
The statement said Singapore’s government welcomed the delegation and its commitment to “strong U.S. engagement.”
It said the officials discussed “views on key international and regional developments, including the war in Ukraine, cross-strait relations and climate change.”
“PM Lee highlighted the importance of stable U.S.-China relations for regional peace and security,” the statement also said.
On Monday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian issued a warning that there would be “very serious” consequences if Pelosi does end up in Taiwan.
“We would like to tell the United States once again that China is standing by, the Chinese People’s Liberation Army will never sit idly by, and China will take resolute responses and strong countermeasures to defend its sovereignty and territorial integrity,” Zhao said in the ministry’s daily briefing. “If she dares to go, then let us wait and see.”
Japan, meanwhile, is seeing the tensions between the United States and China growing while not having the services of its two Izumo-class multipurpose destroyers. One is in Hawaii for the RIMPAC exercises while the other is undergoing repairs in the Kure Shipyard, Nikkei Asia reports.
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