Chinese warplanes expected to line up Taiwan Strait ahead of Pelosi visit – source

  • Chinese planes and ships operate close to the Line of Separation
  • Beijing has warned against Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan
  • American speaker on Asian tour to Singapore, Malaysia, South Korea, Japan

TAIPEI, Aug 2 (Reuters) – Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi is expected to arrive in Taipei later on Tuesday, as several Chinese fighter jets fly near the line of demarcation that divides the Taiwan Strait, people said. Reuters.

China has repeatedly warned against Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan, which it claims is its own, while the United States said on Monday it would not be intimidated by China’s “sabre rattling.”

Apart from Chinese planes flying close to the strait’s median line, several Chinese warships have sailed close to the unofficial dividing line since Monday, the source told Reuters. The source said Chinese warships and aircraft “stripped” the median line on Tuesday morning, an unusual move that the person described as “very provocative”.

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The Chinese plane “touched” the median line briefly and repeatedly made tactical maneuvers to circle to the other side of the strait on Tuesday morning, the person said, while Taiwanese planes stood by nearby.

Chinese planes left the area in the afternoon, but the ships remained, the person said.

Planes from both sides usually do not cross the median line.

Taiwan’s Defense Ministry said in a statement that it fully understood the military’s actions and would deploy forces appropriately in response to any “enemy threats”.

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China’s defense and foreign ministries did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Meanwhile, the website of Taiwan’s presidential office was hit by a foreign cyber attack on Tuesday and was down at one point, a source said. The office later confirmed the attacks. read more

In the southeastern Chinese city of Xiamen, which lies across the street from Taiwan, there is a heavy military presence, with residents reporting sightings of armored vehicles on Tuesday and posting pictures online. The images could not be immediately verified by Reuters.

Chinese social media was abuzz with both potential conflict and patriotic fervor, and Pelosi’s trip was a top trending item on Twitter-like Weibo.

Wednesday meetings

Most of Pelosi’s scheduled meetings, including with President Tsai Ing-wen, are scheduled for Wednesday, a person familiar with her itinerary said.

Pelosi plans to meet Wednesday afternoon with a group of activists speaking out about human rights in China, four sources said.

Pelosi, who began her Asian tour in Singapore on Monday, was in Malaysia earlier on Tuesday. His office said he would also visit South Korea and Japan, but made no mention of a trip to Taiwan.

Taiwan’s foreign ministry had no comment on reports of Pelosi’s travel plans.

China reiterated its opposition to Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan.

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“In the face of the United States’ reckless disregard for China’s persistent and aggressive representations, any countermeasures taken by the Chinese side would be reasonable and necessary, which is the right of any independent and sovereign country,” spokeswoman Hua Chunying told a daily briefing in Beijing.

‘Scary’ claims

Beijing’s responses include firing missiles near Taiwan, large-scale air or naval operations, or “vicious legal claims” such as China’s claim that the Taiwan Strait is not an international waterway, White House national security spokesman John Kirby said on Monday.

“We don’t take bait or engage in sword fights. At the same time, we don’t get intimidated,” Kirby said.

China sees visits by US officials to Taiwan, an autonomous island claimed by Beijing, as sending an encouraging signal to the pro-independence camp on the island. Washington does not have official diplomatic relations with Taiwan, but is bound by US law to provide the island with the means to defend itself.

The visit by Pelosi, the second-in-command of the US presidency and a long-time critic of China, comes amid deteriorating relations between Washington and Beijing.

‘Chess Piece’

Kirby said nothing about Pelosi’s potential trip would change US policy on Taiwan, and Beijing was well aware that the devolution of powers within the US government meant Pelosi would make her own decisions.

“The Speaker has the right to go to Taiwan,” he said at a White House briefing on Monday.

During a phone call on July 28, Chinese President Xi Jinping warned President Joe Biden that Washington must adhere to the One China policy and that “those who play with fire will perish”.

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Biden told Xi that US policy on Taiwan has not changed and that Washington strongly opposes unilateral efforts to undermine peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait or change the status quo.

Beijing has never abandoned the use of force to bring Taiwan under its control. Taiwan rejects China’s sovereignty claims and says only its people can decide the island’s future.

Dozens of protesters from pro-China groups gathered outside Taipei’s Grand Hyatt hotel on Tuesday, where local media speculated Pelosi might be staying. “Get out! Troublemaker Nancy Pelosi!” A placard carried by a protester read as about 50 police officers looked on.

Residents of Taiwan, caught in the middle of Sino-US tensions, expressed mixed feelings about Pelosi’s visit.

Yang Hsing-ruel, a 22-year-old university student, said he was not too concerned about China’s tough rhetoric and hoped any visit would improve relations between Taiwan and the United States.

Fellow student Chang Yun-Fan, 22, had few expectations. “Ultimately we are a chess piece in someone else’s game,” he said.

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Reporting by Yimou Lee and Sarah Wu; Additional reporting by Fabian Hamacher and Ann Wang in Taipei and Yu Lun Tian in Beijing; By Tony Munro; Editing by Stephen Coates, Simon Cameron-Moore and Mike Harrison

Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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