US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi was expected to arrive in Taipei later on Tuesday, people briefed on the matter said, as several Chinese warplanes flew close to the median line dividing the Taiwan Strait, a source told Reuters.
China has been in communication with the United States over Nancy Pelosi's expected visit to Taiwan, Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said on Tuesday.
Pelosi kicked off a tour of four Asian countries on Monday in Singapore amid intense speculation that she may risk the wrath of Beijing by also visiting self-ruled Taiwan.
Taiwanese officials told CNN that Pelosi is expected to stay in Taiwan overnight, although it is yet unclear when exactly she will land in Taipei.
Pelosi is also scheduled to visit Taiwan’s parliament on Wednesday morning before continuing her Asia trip, according to The Liberty Times, a Taiwanese media outlet. Taiwan’s foreign ministry said it had no comment on reports of Pelosi’s travel plans.
Taiwanese defense officials have canceled the leave of some soldiers and officers “to immediately prepare" for the chance of war in response to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Asia this week, according to local reports.
Taiwan's premier on Tuesday reiterated that Taiwan "warmly welcomes" foreign guests, ahead of a potential visit by US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi to the self-ruled island that China claims as its own.
Taiwan "would make the most appropriate arrangements" for such guests and respect their plans, Premier Su Tseng-chang told reporters on Tuesday when asked about Pelosi's visit.
The island's official central news agency further reported that Taiwan's Defense Ministry has "reinforced" its combat alertness level from Tuesday morning to Thursday noon.
People's Liberation Army
The Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) will "not sit idly by" if Pelosi follows through on her planned visit, Chinese foreign ministry Spokesperson Zhao Lijian warned during a Chinese foreign ministry regular briefing on Monday.
Zhao added that because of Pelosi's status as the "No. 3 official of the US government", a visit to Taiwan, which China claims sovereignty over, would "lead to egregious political impact."
"We would like to tell the US once again that China is standing by, and the Chinese People's Liberation Army will never sit idly by. China will take resolute responses and strong countermeasures to defend its sovereignty and territorial integrity," Zhao told reporters, when asked about the fallout from Pelosi leading a congressional delegation to Taipei.
"As for what measures, if she dares to go, then let's wait and see," Zhao added.
"As for what measures, if she dares to go, then let's wait and see."Zhao Lijian
The PLA has issued another warning to Nancy Pelosi ahead of her expected trip to Taiwan, publishing a video simulating a missile strike, aircraft carriers advancing and fighter jets in formation on social media.
Fully prepared for any eventuality!Check the video released by the #PLA Eastern Theater Command on #ArmyDay on Mon which marks the 95th anniversary of the founding of the PLA. -globaltimes.cnpic.twitter.com/aEzoANkqno— Zhang Meifang张美芳 (@CGMeifangZhang) August 1, 2022
The video, which was posted on WeChat on Monday morning, followed Chinese claims that if the US House speaker will arrive in Taipei on Tuesday night, they could shoot her plane down and launch a military response.
In the run-up to Monday’s PLA founding anniversary, the Chinese military conducted “live-fire exercises” near the Pingtan islands off Fujian province, according to the official Xinhua state media agency. The Maritime Safety Administration warned ships to avoid the area.
Chinese state media personality Hu Xijin also issued a stern warning to Pelosi, "Let her go to Taiwan. But pray before departure: wish herself a safe journey and wish herself not be defined by history as a sinner who starts a spiral of escalation process expanding military frictions to a large-scale war in the Taiwan Strait."
China has repeatedly warned against Pelosi going to Taiwan, which it claims as its own, while the United States said on Monday that it would not be intimidated by Chinese "sabre rattling."
In addition to Chinese planes flying close to the median line of the strait, several Chinese warships have sailed near the unofficial dividing line since Monday, the source told Reuters. Chinese warships and aircraft "squeezed" the median line on Tuesday morning, the source said, an unusual move the person described as "very provocative."
Chinese aircraft repeatedly conducted tactical moves of briefly "touching" the median line and circling back to the other side of the strait on Tuesday morning, while Taiwanese aircraft were on standby nearby, the person said.
The Chinese planes left the area in the afternoon, but the vessels remained, the person said.
Neither side's aircraft normally cross the median line.
Taiwan's Defence Ministry said in a statement it has a full grasp of the military activities and will appropriately dispatch forces in reaction to any "enemy threats".
China's defense and foreign ministries did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Meanwhile, the website of Taiwan's presidential office was targeted by an overseas cyber attack on Tuesday and was at one point malfunctioning, a source briefed on the matter said. The office later confirmed the attacks.
In the southeastern Chinese city of Xiamen, which lies opposite Taiwan and is home to a large military presence, residents reported sightings of armoured vehicles on the move on Tuesday and posted pictures online. The images could not immediately be verified by Reuters.
Chinese social media was abuzz with both trepidation about potential conflict and patriotic fervour, and Pelosi's trip was the top-trending item on the Twitter-like Weibo.
US officials, particularly in the US military, had warned about the trip due to safety concerns amid high tensions with China, with the US Defense Department working to ensure around-the-clock monitoring of Chinese movements in the region during the House speaker's Asia trip, according to a US statement.
US secretary of state, Antony Blinken, also told reporters on Monday that the speaker “will make her own decisions about whether or not to visit Taiwan,” stressing that Congress is independent of the White House.
“Congress is an independent, co-equal branch of government, the decision is entirely the speaker’s. This is very much precedent in the sense that [a] previous speaker has visited Taiwan. Many members of Congress go to Taiwan, including this year,” Blinken said, alluding to Republican House speaker Newt Gingrich’s visit in 1997.
Blinken added that “We are looking for them[China], in the event she decides to visit, to act responsibly and not to engage in any escalation going forward.”
Secretary Blinken: "The Speaker will make her own decisions about whether or not to visit Taiwan...the decision is entirely the Speaker's...this is very much precedent in the sense that previous speaker has visited Taiwan. Many of members of Congress go..." pic.twitter.com/AIWbzczDGe— CSPAN (@cspan) August 1, 2022
Pelosi released an itinerary for her trip over the weekend that included stops in Singapore, Malaysia, South Korea, and Japan. Speculation quickly grew as to whether the House speaker would visit Taiwan, prompting warnings from Chinese media figures of “severe punishment.”