According to prior comments from President Biden, the Pentagon wants House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to cancel her visit to Taiwan - but now pending her possible arrival in Taipei the US military has moved a Navy strike group into the South China Sea led by the USS Ronald Reagan aircraft carrier.
The USS Reagan left a port call in Singapore and is now patrolling waters near China, with Beijing flexing its own military muscle by launching fresh naval exercises near the self-ruled island - and more worrisomely issuing threats that the PLA military is on stand-by to respond with "forceful measures" if needed. Turkey's EHA media outlet on Saturday is circulating (unverified) video purporting to show large US warplane formation flyovers of the South China sea, with destroyers below...
📹| Warplanes of the US Navy are flying near Taiwan.— EHA News (@eha_news) July 30, 2022
▪️Very harsh statements from China continue to come before US House of Representatives Speaker Pelosi's visit to Taiwan
▪️Tension in the region has risen to its highest level. pic.twitter.com/9AzZGQ3QPy
Pelosi is currently en route over the Pacific for a scheduled tour of Asia - including stops in Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, and Singapore - with The Washington Post's Josh Rogin on Friday reporting that a Taiwan stopover is "expected to happen" during the "early part" of the trip, based on diplomatic sources.
All eyes are on Pelosi's flight path after it was days ago revealed that Taiwan was listed "tentative" as part of her itinerary...
Pelosi is on the way to Asia pic.twitter.com/af1mf7HYsc— 🆁🆄🆂🆂🅸🅰🅽 🅼🅰🆁🅺🅴🆃 (@russian_market) July 30, 2022
It's expected that if she goes through with the Taiwan visit, Pelosi would at some point in Asia board a military transport plane - likely with US fighter jet escort. This possibility is what has infuriated Beijing.
Chinese state media, for example, has been issuing loud warnings saying the PLA military would have the "right" to intercept and deter any armed jet escort, deeming this akin to an "invasion" and violation of China's sovereignty.
Chinese foreign ministry officials continue to warn that "all options, including military ones" are on the table given Beijing is interpreting the potential Pelosi visit as a strong signal to pro-independence forces, as well as 'interference' and a violation of the One China principle.
Beijing is further warning that the House Speaker's visit to the island, which would mark a first in 25 years, would only ratchet the potential for "misunderstandings" and miscalculation.
#Latest China's remarks on countering #Pelosi's possible visit to #Taiwan shows highest level of warning. All options, including military ones, are already on the table. It's crucial to accurately understand China's remarks and avoid misunderstandings, experts.@globaltimesnews pic.twitter.com/0LRJ4e0Jgt— Zhang Meifang张美芳 (@CGMeifangZhang) July 30, 2022
As CNN previewed, China's PLA Navy is holding "live-fire" exercises in waters off Taiwan, raising the stakes further:
China is planning to conduct live-fire exercises on Saturday in waters near Pingtan Island of Fujian province, which is opposite the self-governing island of Taiwan.
The Pingtan Maritime Safety Administration issued a navigation warning about the drills late Thursday local time, prohibiting all ships from entering waters near the island and the southeastern province of Fujian. It said the "live-fire training missions" would take place from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m.
As Pelosi flies to the region, the US and Chinese militaries are engaged in rival maneuvering in the seas below...
Satellite images show the arrival of the US aircraft carrier strike group, led by the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan, into the South China Sea en route to the Taiwan Strait. pic.twitter.com/8NFH4RWupc— Spriteer (@spriteer_774400) July 28, 2022
When the USS Reagan strike group entered the South China Sea, there were widespread reports that Chinese destroyers began following closely behind, mirroring and monitoring US Navy movements in the waters.
🇨🇳🇺🇸 Chinese navy warships are chasing the USS Ronald Reagan in the South China Sea— TPYXA ⚡ Middle East (@middleeasttime) July 30, 2022
🚩 @ResistanceTrench pic.twitter.com/hch5yrUHjC
Chinese pundits and others have lately been circulating Archduke Franz Ferdinand memes, suggesting that if something goes wrong, the provocative trip could be what sparks the next world war pitting nuclear-armed superpowers China and the US against each other (and perhaps also Russia, given the war in Ukraine and Moscow-Washington stand-off in Eastern Europe).
While prior US media reporting indicated Pelosi's Taiwan visit would come "next month" - meaning August, it remains entirely possible that Pelosi could suddenly show up meeting with Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen as soon as Sunday, July 31 - or into Monday or Tuesday.
Meanwhile, China state-run Global Times has posted an ominous message of "Don't say we didn't warn you!" as Pelosi heads to Asia...
“Don’t say we didn’t warn you!” Analysts warned at a top-level think tank forum that open options in military and comprehensive countermeasures ranging from economy and diplomacy from China will wait if Pelosi gambles to visit Taiwan island. https://t.co/zDDsidxb3m— Global Times (@globaltimesnews) July 29, 2022
Some more worrisome signs...
Don't want to sound alarmist, but IMO it's notable that at this time of US-China tension, 3 of China's largest/newest roll-on/roll-off civilian ferries appear to be off their normal routes and are in or have moved south toward the Taiwan Strait. All 3 are associated with the PLA.— Thomas Shugart (@tshugart3) July 30, 2022
This also as official social media accounts of the PLA military also promoted 'war preparedness' messages, also picked up in international press.