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    A possible trip by Nancy Pelosi to Taiwan alerts the Pentagon to a threat from China

    US officials say they don’t fear China Attack Nancy Pelosi’s plane if she travels to Taiwan. But the president of the House of Representatives of the United States would enter one of the points hottest in the world, where a mish, misstep or misunderstanding could jeopardize your safety. That is why the Pentagon is preparing plans for any contingency.

    The officials told The Associated Press that if Pelosi goes to Taiwan — something still uncertain — the military would increase the movement of forces and active in the Indo-Pacific region.

    They declined to give details, but said they are likely to be used fighter planes, ships, surveillance assets and other military systems to provide overlping rings of protection for your flight to Taiwan and your time on the ground there.

    Nancy Pelosi's visit to Taiwan makes the Pentagon nervous.  Photo: AP

    Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan makes the Pentagon nervous. Photo: AP

    Any trip abroad by a top American leader demands additional security. But officials said this week that Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan – the elected US official would be of highest rank to visit Taiwan since 1997 – would take more safety precautions than usual for travel to less risky destinations.

    Asked about military measures planned to protect Pelosi if she does travel, US General Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said Wednesday that it is premature to talk about a specific trip.

    But, he added, “if it is decided that Pelosi or anyone else will travel and military support is requested, we will do what is necessary to ensure the safe conduct of their visit. And that is all I will say.”

    China

    China considers Taiwan its own territory and has raised the possibility of annexing it by force.

    USA maintains informal relations and defense ties with Taiwan, even though it recognizes Beijing as the government of China.

    The Chinese government warned on Wednesday that if Pelosi visits Taiwan, she will not sit idly by.

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    “If Pelosi sees Taiwan, the People’s Liberation Army will accompany your plane when entering the island, making a historic crossing with military aircraft from the mainland for the first time,” said Hu Xijin, former editor of China’s state-run Global Times.

    When then-US Secretary of Health Alex Azar flew to Taiwan in 2020, Chinese aviation fighters crossed the median line of the Taiwan Strait, which separates the island from mainland China, it left them within range of Taipei’s missiles.

    The trip comes at a time when China has stepped up what the US and its Pacific allies say is risky clashes with other armies to assert their important territorial claims.

    Incidents

    Incidents have included dangerously close flybys forcing other pilots to swerve to avoid collisions or harassing or obstructing aircraft and ship crews, including with blinding lasers or water cannons.

    This year alone there have been dozens of such maneuvers, US Deputy Defense Secretary Ely Ratner told a forum on the South China Sea hosted by the Center for Strategic and International Studies on Tuesday. China denies the incidents.

    The US officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of sensitive security issues, raised the need to create buffer zones around the legislator and her plane.

    The USS Ronald Reagan at anchor in Hong Kong.  Photo: AP file

    The USS Ronald Reagan at anchor in Hong Kong. Photo: AP file

    The US already has significant forces spread across the region, so any increased security could largely be managed by existing assets.

    The military would also have to be prepared for any incident, even an accident in the air or on the ground. They said the US would have to have rescue cabilities nearby and that these could include helicopters on ships already in the area.

    Pelosi, a Democratic representative from California, has not publicly confirmed any new plans to travel to Taiwan. I was going to go in April but postponed the trip after testing positive for COVID-19.

    The White House did not agree on Monday to comment directly on the issue and noted that Pelosi had not confirmed the trip. But President Joe Biden last week raised his concerns about it, telling reporters that the military believes his trip “Not a good idea right now.”

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    Biden is scheduled to speak with Chinese President Xi Xinping this Thursday.

    Pelosi’s trip could play into that call, their first conversation in four months.

    The USS Ronald Reagan aircraft carrier and her strike group.  Photo: AFP

    The USS Ronald Reagan aircraft carrier and her strike group. Photo: AFP

    US officials have said the administration doubts China would take direct action against Pelosi or try to sabotage the visit. But they do not rule out the possibility that China can intensify overflights provocation of military aircraft in or near Taiwanese airspace and naval patrolling in the Taiwan Strait should the trip take place.

    and do not exclude Chinese stocks elsewhere of the region as a show of force.

    Security analysts disagreed Tuesday about the scope of any threat during the trip and the need for additional military protection.

    The biggest risk during Pelosi’s trip is that a Chinese show of force “go wrong or some kind of accident stemming from a display of provocative actions,” said Mark Cozad, acting associate director of The Rand Corp.’s Center for Defense and International Security Policy.

    “So that could be a plane crash. It could be some kind of missile test, and again, when you do that kind of thing, there’s always the possibility that something goes wrong“.

    Barry Pavel, director of the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council, laughed that US officials had considered using aircraft carriers and warplanes to ensure the House Speaker’s safety.

    Nancy Pelosi had planned to travel to Taiwan in April, but she contracted covid.  Photo: AP

    Nancy Pelosi had planned to travel to Taiwan in April, but she contracted covid. Photo: AP

    “Obviously, the White House does not want the president to go And I think that’s why some of these suggestions are made.”

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    “He will not go with an army”, Pavel said.

    They also said the increased US military presence to protect Pelosi could escalate tensions.

    “It’s quite possible that … our deterrence attempts actually send a very different signal than we intend to send,” Cozad said. “And then you get into a kind of escalating spiral, where our attempts at deterrence are seen as more and more provocative and vice versa. And that can be a very dangerous dynamic.”

    On Wednesday, China’s Foreign Ministry declined to comment on the presidential phone call. However, spokesman Zhao Lijian reiterated China’s warnings about a possible visit by Pelosi.

    “If the US insists on doing what it wants and questioning China’s proach, it will surely be met with forceful responses,” Zhao told reporters at a daily news briefing. “All the consequences resulting will be the responsibility of the United States“.

    The USS Ronald Reagan aircraft carrier and its strike group operate in the western Pacific.  Photo: AFP

    The USS Ronald Reagan aircraft carrier and its strike group operate in the western Pacific. Photo: AFP

    Milley said this week that the number of interceptions by US and other partner forces by Chinese planes and ships in the Pacific region has increased significantly in the last five years. He pointed out that the Beijing military has become much more aggressive and dangerous and the number of unsafe interactions has increased by similar proportions.

    The USS Ronald Reagan US aircraft carrier and its strike group are currently operating in the western Pacific and made a stopover in Singore over the weekend. Participating in the strike group are at least two other Navy ships and Carrier Air Wing 5, which includes F/A-18 fighters, helicopters and surveillance planes.

    Before arriving at the port of Singore, the strike group had been operating in the South China Sea. In addition, another Navy ship, the destroyer USS Benfold, conducted freedom of navigation operations in the region that included passing through the Taiwan Strait last week.

    By Lolita C. Baldor and Ellen Knickmeyer, Associated Press

    Translation: Elisa Carnelli

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