Pentagon makes plans in case Nancy Pelosi goes to Taiwan

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SYDNEY (TBEN) — US officials say they have little fear that China would attack Nancy Pelosi’s plane if she flies to Taiwan. But the US House speaker would be entering one of the world’s most popular places, where an accident, misstep or misunderstanding could jeopardize her safety. So the Pentagon is developing plans for any contingencies.

Officials told The The Bharat Express News that if Pelosi goes to Taiwan — still an uncertainty — the military would increase its movement of troops and resources in the Indo-Pacific region. They declined to provide details, but said fighter jets, ships, surveillance equipment and other military systems would likely be used to provide overlapping rings of protection for her flight to Taiwan and any time on the ground there.

Any foreign trip by a senior US leader requires additional security. But officials this week said a visit to Taiwan by Pelosi – she would be the highest-ranking US elected official to visit Taiwan since 1997 – would go beyond usual security measures for travel to less risky destinations.

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

China considers Taiwan’s self-government its own territory and has raised the prospect of annexing it by force. The US maintains informal and defense relations with Taiwan, even though it recognizes Beijing as the government of China.

Dozens of such maneuvers have taken place this year alone, U.S. assistant defense secretary Ely Ratner said on Tuesday at a forum in the South China Sea by the Center for Strategic and International Studies. China denies the incidents.

Speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive security issues, US officials described the need to create buffer zones around the speaker and her plane. The US already has significant forces spread across the region, so any increased security could largely be handled by means already in place.

The military should also be prepared for any incident – even an accident in the air or on the ground. They said the US should have rescue capabilities nearby and suggested using helicopters on ships already in the area.

Pelosi, D-Calif., has not publicly confirmed any new plans for a trip to Taiwan. She was supposed to go in April, but she postponed the trip after testing positive for COVID-19.

The White House declined to talk directly about the matter Monday, noting that it had not confirmed the trip. But President Joe Biden expressed concern about this last week, telling reporters that the military doesn’t think her trip is a good idea right now.

US officials have said the government doubts China would take direct action against Pelosi itself or attempt to sabotage the visit. But they don’t rule out the possibility that China could escalate provocative military aircraft overflights in or near Taiwanese airspace and naval patrols in the Taiwan Strait if the trip were to take place. And they don’t rule out Chinese actions elsewhere in the region as a sign of force.

Security analysts were divided on Tuesday about the magnitude of any threat during a trip and the need for any additional military protection.

The greatest risk during Pelosi’s journey is that some Chinese show of force “has failed, or some kind of accident that stems from a demonstration of provocative action,” said Mark Cozad, acting deputy director of the International Security and Defense Policy Center at the International Security and Defense Policy Center. Rand Corp. “So it could be an air collision. It could be kind of a missile test, and again, if you’re doing that kind of thing, you know, there’s always the possibility that something could go wrong.”

Barry Pavel, director of the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council, scoffed at the reported consideration by US officials that aircraft carriers and combat aircraft are being considered to ensure the safety of the speaker. “Obviously the White House doesn’t want the speaker to leave and I think that’s why you’re getting some of these suggestions.”

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

They also said a reinforced US military presence to protect Pelosi would heighten tensions.

On Monday, China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said Beijing had repeatedly expressed its “solemn stance” on a possible visit to Pelosi. He told reporters that China is ready to “take firm and firm measures to defend national sovereignty and territorial integrity”.

In this image taken from video, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian gestures during a media briefing at the Foreign Ministry office on Wednesday, April 6, 2022, in Beijing.

Liu Zheng via The Bharat Express News

Milley said this week that the number of interceptions by Chinese aircraft and ships in the Pacific with US and other partner forces has increased significantly over the past five years. He said Beijing’s military has become much more aggressive and dangerous, and the number of unsafe interactions has increased by similar proportions.

Those include reports of Chinese fighter jets flying so close to a Canadian air security patrol last month that the Canadian pilot had to swerve to avoid a collision, and another close call to an Australian surveillance flight in late May that saw the Chinese crew catch a flurry of metal debris. were sucked into the engine of the other aircraft.

US officials say the prospects of an interception or show of force by Chinese planes near Pelosi’s flight is worrying, forcing US planes and other assets to be nearby.

The US aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan and its attack group are currently operating in the western Pacific, making a port call in Singapore this weekend. The strike group includes at least two other naval vessels and Carrier Air Wing 5, including F/A-18 fighter jets, helicopters and surveillance aircraft.

Prior to entering port in Singapore, the strike group was active in the South China Sea. In addition, another naval vessel, the USS Benfold, a destroyer, has been conducting free navigation operations in the region, including a passage through the Taiwan Strait last week.

Knickmeyer reported from Washington.