Tension escalates hours ahead of Pelosi's potential Taiwan visit as PLA remains fully prepared for any crisis
Published: Aug 02, 2022 03:35 PM Updated: Aug 02, 2022 05:58 PM
Taiwan Photo: Unsplash

Taiwan Photo: Unsplash

The intensity of the situation across the Taiwan Straits has drastically escalated as the military deployment from the Chinese mainland, US and the island of Taiwan continues creeping up, after US and Taiwan-based media disclosed that US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is expected to visit the island on Tuesday night, a serious provocation and violation to China's sovereignty and territorial integrity which would be met with severe countermeasures from the Chinese military. 

According to the website of China's Maritime Safety Administration, the Shandong Maritime Safety Administration issued a navigation warning, saying that the Weifang port in Bohai Sea will conduct live fire from 15:00 to 24:00 on August 3. The Qinglan Maritime Safety Administration of South China's Guangdong Province also issued a navigation warning due to conducting military training in parts of the South China Sea from Tuesday to Saturday. 

Citing "officials", Taiwan-based media on Monday said Pelosi is expected to land in Taipei on Tuesday evening and stay in Taipei overnight at the Grand Hyatt hotel in Xinyi district. CNN also released similar information, saying that "Pelosi is expected to visit Taiwan as part of her tour of Asia."

The Fujian Provincial Military Command neighboring Taiwan posted videos and pictures on Tuesday about a live-fire exercise, which aims to "test overall combat capability under complex conditions." It said that the minuteman missile unit, anti-aircraft artillery unit, radar unit and other combat units participated in the exercise, the first time in recent years that a provincial military command has organized a multi-branch and multi-professional militia to conduct live fire

Citing an anonymous source, the Reuters reported on Tuesday that several People's Liberation Army (PLA) aircrafts flew close to the "median line" of the Taiwan Straits on Tuesday morning, following the Taiwan-based outlets that said two Chinese mainland guided-missile frigates and a survey ship sailed from north to south through Yonaguni Island waters, heading east of Taiwan island. 

As of Tuesday noon, flights at airports in several cities in Fujian province, including Xiamen, Fuzhou and Quanzhou, have been partially canceled, according to Xiamen Airlines, citing regional traffic control.   

Posting satellite pictures, some netizens on Twitter and Weibo said China's aircraft carrier Liaoning has left East China's Qingdao on July 31 heading southward, and the Shandong left South China's Sanya on August 1, heading northward, speculating whether they are going to conduct dual carriers' operations in the Taiwan Straits. 

Some analysts said that as Pelosi's aircraft may enter Taiwan's self-claimed "air defense identification zone" along the east coast of Taiwan after departing from Malaysia, the Chinese mainland vessels appeared in an earlier time to occupy position and are closely monitoring Pelosi's route. 

Meanwhile, the USS Ronald Reagan reportedly escorting Pelosi is also approaching Taiwan island. A Beijing-based think tank, the South China Sea Strategic Situation Probing Initiative, said that the USS Reagan carrier strike group is already in nearby waters east of the Bashi Channel, the water between Philippine and Taiwan island. 

Amphibious assault ship USS Tripoli is also near Japan's island of Okinawa and amphibious assault ship USS America is deployed in Sasebo, Japan, according to the Nikkei. The media noted that the US Air Force has sent two HC-130J Combat King IIs to Okinawa from Anchorage, Alaska along with multiple KC-135 Stratotankers. 

Taiwan authorities are also preparing for the potential crisis caused by Pelosi's visit. Local media on the island reported on Tuesday that the island's military has entered a 3-day special "enhanced combat preparation period" from Tuesday morning to the noon of August 4, but the combat readiness level remains unadjusted to the peacetime period.

The military has also sent eight Mirage series fighter jets to the air force base in Taitung, increasing the totaling number of Mirage from 4 to 12 in the base. Besides, Chiayi base has sent the island's helicopters air rescue group, dubbed "seagulls," stationed in Taitung.

Global Times reporter learned from a Shanghai-based remote sensing geospatial analysis company Mizar Vision on Tuesday that Pelosi's aircraft has arrived in Malaysia. And the data showed that US government chartered plane SPAR20 had also arrived in Malaysian airspace from Scott Air Force Base via Japan. Analysts said the move might serve to the escort mission during Pelosi's Taiwan visit, or it may aiming to replace Pelosi's previous plane.

Taiwan-based media pointed out that given PLA's reaction, Pelosi's aircraft may not have direct access to "flight information region (FIR) of Taiwan," but will be through the FIR of the Philippines, heading northeast to the US Auckland Oceanic FIR in east of Taiwan island, and fly to Taipei through Japan's FIR.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian on Monday sternly warned Pelosi's potential visit to Taiwan, stressing that "the PLA will not sit idly by" and will take "resolute and strong countermeasures" to protect China's sovereignty and territorial integrity.