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Pentagon planning possible Pelosi visit to Taiwan: AP

Sydney US officials say they have little fear that China will attack Nancy Pelosi’s plane if it flies to Taiwan. But the US House speaker may be entering one of the world’s hottest spots where an accident, misstep or misunderstanding could put his or her safety at risk. So the Pentagon is developing plans for any contingency.

Officials told The Associated Press that if Pelosi visits Taiwan — there is still an uncertainty — the military will increase the movement of its forces and assets in the Indo-Pacific. He declined to provide details, but said fighter jets, ships, surveillance assets and other military systems would likely be used to provide overlapping rings of protection at any time flying to Taiwan and on the ground there.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian warned in a regular news conference on Wednesday that Beijing “strongly opposes Speaker Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan,” Agence France-Presse reported.

“If the US moves forward and challenges China’s bottom line… the US side will bear all the consequences that may arise from this,” he said.

Travel abroad by a senior US leader requires additional security. But officials said this week that a visit to Taiwan by Pelosi, who will be the highest US official chosen to visit Taiwan since 1997, would go beyond the usual safety precautions for travel to low-risk destinations.

Asked about planned military steps to protect Pelosi in the event of a visit, General Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said on Wednesday that discussion of any specific visit is premature. But, he added, “if a decision is made that Speaker Pelosi or someone else is going to visit and they have asked for military support, we will do whatever is necessary to ensure the safe conduct of their visit. And I will.” I’ll leave it at that.”

China considers self-governing Taiwan its territory and has raised the possibility of annexing it by force. The US maintains informal relations and defense ties with Taiwan, while it recognizes Beijing as the government of China.

The visit is being considered at a time when China has taken forward what the US and its allies in the Pacific have said. risky face-to-face confrontation To assert its extensive territorial claims with other armies. Incidents include dangerously close fly-bys that force other pilots to avoid a collision, and harassment or obstruction of air and ship crews, including indiscriminate laser or water cannon.

Dozens of such maneuvers have taken place this year alone, US Assistant Defense Secretary Eli Ratner said on Tuesday at the South China Sea Forum by the Center for Strategic and International Studies. China denies the incidents.

US officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive security issues, described the need to create buffer zones around the speaker and his aircraft. The US already has substantial forces spread across the region, so any increased security can be largely controlled by pre-existing assets.

The military also has to be prepared for any eventuality – even an accident in the air or on the ground. He said the US would need rescue capabilities nearby and suggested that the area could include helicopters already on ships.

Pelosi, D-Cal., has not publicly confirmed any new plans to travel to Taiwan. She was supposed to leave in April, but postponed the trip after she tested positive COVID-19,

The White House declined to speak directly on the matter on Monday, noting that it had not confirmed the visit. but the president Biden expressed concern about it last weekTelling reporters that the military thinks his visit “isn’t a good idea right now.”

Pelosi’s visit could come on a call on Thursday between Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping, their first in four months. A US official confirmed plans to call the Associated Press on condition of anonymity ahead of a formal announcement.

US officials have said the administration suspects China itself will take direct action against Pelosi or try to sabotage the trip. But they do not rule out the possibility that China could increase provocative overflights of military aircraft in or near Taiwan’s airspace and conduct naval patrols in the Taiwan Strait if it travels. And they do not deter Chinese action elsewhere in the region as a show of strength.

To the extent of Chinese danger if Pelosi is debated

Security analysts were divided on Tuesday about the extent of any threats during the visit and the need for any additional military protection.

The greatest risk during Pelosi’s visit would be a display of some Chinese force “gone wrong, or some sort of accident that results from a display of provocative action,” said Mark Kozad, acting director of the Center for International Security and Defense Policy at RAND. Corp.” So it could be an aerial collision. It could be some kind of missile test, and, again, when you’re doing those kinds of things, you know, there’s always the possibility that something could go wrong. Is. “

Barry Powell, director of the Schocroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council, scoffed at reports of US officials considering aircraft carriers and warplanes to secure the speaker’s safety. “Obviously, the White House doesn’t want the speaker to go and I think that’s why you’re getting some of these suggestions.”

“She’s not going with an armada,” Powell said.

He also said the US military presence for Pelosi’s security risked escalating tensions.

“It’s quite possible that … our efforts to stop actually send a very different signal from what we intended to send,” Kozad said. “And so you … enter some sort of escalatory spiral, where our attempts to stop are seen as really increasingly provoking and vice versa. And that can be a very dangerous dynamic.”

tension is rising

Milley said this week that the number of intercepts by Chinese aircraft and ships in the Pacific with the US and other allied forces has increased significantly over the past five years. He added that Beijing’s military has become far more aggressive and dangerous, and the number of unsecured talks has increased by a similar proportion.

These include reports of Chinese fighter jets flying so close to Canadian air security patrols last month that the Canadian pilot had to bow down to avoid a collision, and another close call in late May with an Australian surveillance flight in which The Chinese crew released a flurry of metal scraps that had been sucked into the engine of another plane.

US officials say the prospect of interception or a display of force by Chinese aircraft near Pelosi’s flight raises concerns, requiring US aircraft and other assets to be kept nearby.

US aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan and its strike group are currently operating in the western Pacific and made a port call in Singapore over the weekend. The strike group included at least two other Navy ships and Carrier Air Wing 5, which included F/A-18 fighter jets, helicopters and surveillance aircraft.

Before heading to port in Singapore, the strike group was operating in the South China Sea. In addition, another Navy ship, the USS Benfold, a destroyer, is conducting freedom of navigation operations in the area, including a passage through the Strait of Taiwan last week.

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