Warplanes And Missile Tests: The Welcome China May Be Preparing For Pelosi

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Beijing has hit back hard against the United States after reports emerged last week that Pelosi could visit Taiwan in August
Beijing has hit back hard against the United States after reports emerged last week that Pelosi could visit Taiwan in August

The Indo-Pacific region is on a high alert after flight data revealed the U.S. Air Force jet carrying House Speaker Nancy Pelosi left Kuala Lumpur on Tuesday afternoon for the remaining leg of her Asia tour. 

According to the flight-tracking website Flightradar24, Flight SPAR19 departed Kuala Lumpur at 3.42 pm (ET 3:42 am). However, it is not clear if Pelosi or her delegation were on the plane. Local Taiwanese media reports said Pelosi's plane is expected to land at Taipei’s Songshan airport at around 10.20 pm (ET 10:20 am). It is unclear if the aircraft is being accompanied by U.S. military planes.

Pelosi's visit has stoked tensions in the regions with Beijing warning that Washington would “pay the price” if she did visit Taiwan. "The US side will bear the responsibility and pay the price for undermining China’s sovereign security interests," South China Morning Post quoted foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying.

Meanwhile, military analysts and local reports believe there wouldn't be any military conflict. "The big constraint on both sides is still the risk of a war that would just be too costly from either side's perspective," Andrew Gilholm, director of analysis for China and North Asia at Control Risks, told Bloomberg.

That said, these are some ways in which Beijing could respond to Pelosi. China has already announced war games in the adjacent waters, including live-fire drills in the northern Bohai Sea, where entry is also forbidden from Monday to Thursday. PLA aircraft carriers Liaoning and the Shandong too are heading northward from the East China Sea, triggering speculations that they are moving toward Taiwan Strait. 

However, Beijing might go one step ahead and send warplanes over Taiwan or across the median line. Though Chinese warplanes often fly into Taiwan's Air Defense Identification Zone, it has never crossed into Taiwanese airspace. But, this time, it is possible that PLA warplanes could breach the Taiwan Strait’s median line, a buffer zone the U.S. established in 1954 to prevent a conflict between mainland China and Taiwan. PLA aircraft had repeatedly breached the line in September 2020, when then-US Undersecretary of State Keith Krach traveled to the island. 

Several PLA warplanes flew close to the median line on Tuesday morning, Reuters reported. 

There are also reports that China might conduct a missile test, reminiscent of the cross-strait tensions in 1996 when Chinese missiles landed near the shores of Taiwan. The move was Beijing's response to President Bill Clinton's decision to let Taiwan's first democratically elected president, Lee Teng-hui, visit the U.S.

China could also take on the situation through sanctions, added the Bloomberg. China's General Administration of Customs has already suspended more than 100 food imports from Taiwan, which many view as a response to Pelosi's visit to Taiwan. There is a chance that Beijing could disrupt shipping in the Taiwan Strait, a key global trade route. 

Other possible responses include diplomatic protests or seizing an island. However, seizing one of the smaller outlying islands held by the government in Taipei will be viewed as a highly provocative move, and might lead to sanctions being slapped on China.




Photo: AFP / SAUL LOEB

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