US Carrier Group Heads Towards Taiwan Ahead Of Potential Pelosi Trip After China Warns Of 'Forceful Response'
If House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) follows through on her planned trip to Taiwan, the US military will beef up security in case a 'mishap, misstep or misunderstanding' endangers her safety, AP reports.
While the trip is still an uncertainty, officials say that the military would 'increase its movement of forces and assets in the Indo-Pacific region,' though they declined to go into further detail - aside from noting that fighter jets, ships, surveillance assets and other military systems would be used 'to provide overlapping rings of protection' for her flight, and any time she spent on the ground.
[O]fficials said this week that a visit to Taiwan by Pelosi — she would be the highest-ranking U.S. elected official to visit Taiwan since 1997 — would go beyond the usual safety precautions for trips to less risky destinations.
Asked about planned military steps to protect Pelosi, D-Calif., in the event of a visit, U.S. Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said Wednesday that discussion of any specific travel is premature. But, he added, “if there’s a decision made that Speaker Pelosi or anyone else is going to travel and they asked for military support, we will do what is necessary to ensure a safe conduct of their visit. And I’ll just leave it at that.” -AP
(Just like Milley's assurance to Trump that "We've got a plan and we've got it covered" in regards to January 6th?)
To that end, the USS Ronald Reagan and its escorts left Singapore on Monday sailing northeast, according to ship tracking information reported by the South China Morning Post (SCMP).
The American aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan and its strike group, including a guided missile destroyer and a guided missile cruiser, set out from Singapore on Monday heading northeast towards the South China Sea, according to ship-tracking information provided by Beijing-based think tank the South China Sea Strategic Probing Initiative.
Pelosi's trip comes at a time when China and the West have been engaging in risky "one-on-one" confrontations, as China has been trying to assert sweeping territorial claims over the region. "The incidents have included dangerously close fly-bys that force other pilots to swerve to avoid collisions, or harassment or obstruction of air and ship crews, including with blinding lasers or water cannon," according to the report, which adds that 'dozens' of such maneuvers have occurred in 2022 alone.
China, meanwhile, has long considered self-ruling Taiwan part of its territory, and has repeatedly raised the prospect of taking it by force. The US has maintained informal relations and defense ties with Taiwan.
The beefed up military cover comes after President Joe Biden said last week that Pelosi's trip is "not a good idea right now," and after China's Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian warned: "If the U.S. insists on going its own way and challenging China’s bottom line, it will surely be met with forceful responses," adding "All ensuing consequences shall be borne by the U.S."
According to Mark Cozad, acting associate director of the International Security and Defense Policy Center at the Rand Corp, the biggest risk for Pelosi's trip is if some Chinese show of force has "gone awry, or some type of accident that comes out of a demonstration of provocative action."
"So it could be an air collision. It could be some sort of missile test, and, again, when you’re doing those types of things, you know, there is always the possibility that something could go wrong."
Cizad also said the US military presence could backfire and further inflame tensions.
"It is very possible that ... our attempts to deter actually send a much different signal than the one we intend to send," he said, adding "And so you get into ... some sort of an escalatory spiral, where our attempts to deter are actually seen as increasingly provocative and vice versa. And that can be a very dangerous dynamic."
Barry Pavel, director of the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council, downplayed the plan.
"Obviously, the White House does not want the speaker to go and I think that’s why you’re getting some of these suggestions," he said, adding "She’s not going to go with an armada."