The South China Sea (SCS) is in the eye of a storm due to tensions surrounding US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s potential visit to Taiwan in August, with the arrival of the aircraft carrier American USS Ronald Reagan in the SCS area.
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The USS Ronald Reagan and its strike group, which includes a guided missile destroyer and a guided missile cruiser, departed Singapore on July 25 heading towards the SCS, according to vessel tracking information provided by the Beijing-based think tank, the South China Sea Strategic Sounding Initiative (SCSPI).
On July 28, officials from the US Navy’s Seventh Fleet confirmed the carrier’s deployment to the SCS region in a statement to Reuters.
The Reagan is continuing “normal, scheduled operations as part of her routine patrol in support of a free and open Indo-Pacific,” Sims added.
China threatens military response
The news of the US aircraft carrier in the SCS comes after China threatened a military response if Nancy Pelosi, the speaker of the US House of Representatives, visits Taiwan.
As Eurasian Times reported earlier, Pelosi reportedly plans to lead a delegation to Taiwan in August.
She has yet to confirm her plans, but if she visits Taiwan, it will be the first trip by a US House Speaker to the island nation in 25 years since former House Speaker Newt Gingrich met former Taiwanese President Lee Teng-hui in Taipei in 1997.
China’s Foreign Ministry said on July 19 that the US Congress is part of the US government and is supposed to strictly adhere to the “One China” policy.
“The United States should not arrange for President Pelosi’s visit to the Taiwan region and should end official interactions with Taiwan,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said, warning states United of “consequences” if they insist on doing otherwise.
Furthermore, Chinese experts like Hu Xijin, the former editor of the Global Times, have suggested that the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) send military aircraft to escort Pelosi’s plane as it enters Taiwan.
The US military plans to increase its forces
In light of those threats, the U.S. military would be working on contingency plans for any incident that might occur should Pelosi actually travel to Taiwan in August.
The Associated Press reportedciting senior US officials, that the US military plans to increase its movement of forces and assets in the Indo-Pacific region, which would involve the use of combat aircraft, ships and platforms of surveillance to create buffer zones around the President and his plane.
Additionally, the US military will even have nearby rescue capabilities, including helicopters on ships in the area.
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Mark Milley said on July 27, “if it is decided that President Pelosi or anyone else is going to travel and they request military support, we will do what is necessary to ensure that their visit goes smoothly.”
Additionally, US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said on July 27 that he had spoken with the Speaker of the US House and provided him with a security assessment.
“I have spoken personally with the President… I speak to him quite regularly and have provided him with my assessment of the security situation,” Austin said. Told journalists after attending a continental meeting of defense ministers in Brasilia.
According to US President Joe Biden, the Pentagon is not exactly on board with Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan, who said “the military thinks it’s not a good idea right now.”
Asked about President Biden’s remarks, Pelosi said she wasn’t sure what the president meant.
“I think what the president was saying was maybe the military was scared that my plane would be shot down or something. I don’t know exactly,” she said at a press conference last week.
Although the US military does not expect direct hostile action from China should Pelosi visit Taiwan, the latest rhetoric from the Chinese side still worries the Pentagon, and officials expect China conducts provocative military overflights over or near Taiwanese airspace and naval patrols in the Taiwan Straits.
Moreover, U.S. officials believe they will better understand China’s position after President Biden spoke with his Chinese counterpart, President Xi Jinping, in a call scheduled for July 28.
Meanwhile, Taiwanese leader Tsai Ing-wen said Taiwan will continue to deepen its engagement with Japan to maintain peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific region.
A delegation of Japanese lawmakers, led by two former defense ministers, Shigeru Ishiba and Yasukazu Hamada, also members of Japan’s State Security Committee, arrived in Taiwan on Wednesday for a four-day visit.
“Taiwan is an important member of the international community. We know that protecting Taiwan not only means protecting our sovereignty, it is also important from the perspective of regional stability since Taiwan occupies a key position on the defensive line of the First Island Chain. [the islands of Japan, the Philippines, and the Indonesian archipelago].
We will continue to deepen engagement with Japan and other democratic partners to maintain peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific region,” Tsai said during a meeting with the delegation.
The Taiwanese leader also expressed hope for continued close cooperation with Japanese lawmakers, aimed at deepening Taiwan-Japan relations.
Last week, Japan’s Defense Ministry released its regular report on the White Paper, noting China’s growing military potential and alleging that it could be used against Taiwan, if necessary. Beijing has already expressed protest at the report’s position.
Taiwan became alienated from Beijing after becoming a stronghold of the Chinese Nationalist Party (the Kuomintang), which suffered defeat by the Communist Party in a civil war in 1949.
Mainland China and the island resumed commercial and informal contacts in the late 1980s. Beijing opposes any official contact from foreign countries with Taiwan and considers Chinese sovereignty over the island indisputable.