Source: Chinese warplanes fly over the line dividing the Taiwan Strait ahead of Pelosi’s expected visit

TAIPEI (Reuters) – U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi is expected to arrive in Taipei later on Tuesday, a source familiar with the matter said, as several Chinese warplanes fly near the line dividing the Taiwan Strait. Reuters.

China has repeatedly warned against Pelosi going to Taiwan, which it claims belongs to, and the United States said on Monday it would not be frightened by China’s “rattle of swords” over the visit.

The source told Reuters that in addition to Chinese planes flying close to the center line of the sensitive waterway on Tuesday morning, several Chinese warships have remained close to the unofficial dividing line since Monday.

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The source said that Chinese warships and planes “pressed” on the center line on Tuesday morning, an unusual move that the person described as “very provocative.”

The person said Chinese planes made repeated tactical moves by briefly “touching” the midfield and returning to the other side of the strait on Tuesday morning, while Taiwanese planes were on standby nearby.

The planes of either side do not usually cross the midline.

Taiwan’s Defense Ministry said, in a statement on Tuesday, that it has full control over military activities near Taiwan, and that it will send troops appropriately in response to “enemy threats.”

China’s Defense and Foreign Ministry did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

In the southeastern Chinese city of Xiamen, which lies off Taiwan and has a large military presence, residents reported seeing armored vehicles in motion on Tuesday and posted pictures online.

Chinese social media was filled with fear of potential conflict and patriotic fervor over the possibility of reunification with Taiwan, and the topic of Pelosi’s visit was the most popular item on Twitter-like Weibo.

A person familiar with Pelosi’s itinerary said most of her planned meetings, including with President Tsai Ing-wen, were scheduled for Wednesday, and that her delegation could only arrive in Taiwan as early as Wednesday.

“Everything is uncertain,” said the person.

Taiwan’s Liberty Times said Pelosi’s delegation was due to arrive at 10:20 p.m. (1420 GMT) on Tuesday, without revealing sources.

Pelosi was visiting Malaysia on Tuesday, after starting her Asian tour in Singapore on Monday. Her office said she would also go to South Korea and Japan, but made no mention of a visit to Taiwan.

Taiwan’s foreign ministry said it had no comment on the reports about Pelosi’s travel plans, but the White House – which has not confirmed the trip – said she had a right to go.

Beijing’s responses could include launching missiles near Taiwan, conducting large-scale air or sea activities, or more “false legal claims” such as China’s assertion that the Taiwan Strait is not an international waterway, White House national security spokesman John Kirby told reporters at Washington Monday.

“We will not take the bait, nor participate in the rattling of swords,” Kirby said. “At the same time, we will not be afraid.”

“total intervention”

Four sources said Pelosi was due to meet with a small group of activists who are outspoken about China’s human rights record on Wednesday afternoon.

The meeting is likely to take place at the National Human Rights Museum in New Taipei City, according to a source familiar with the matter.

On Monday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan would be a “blatant interference in China’s internal affairs,” and warned that “the People’s Liberation Army of China will not stand idly by.”

Asked what kind of measures the People’s Liberation Army might take, Zhao said, “If you dare to leave, let’s wait and see.”

China views US officials’ visits to Taiwan, an autonomous island claimed by Beijing, as sending an encouraging signal to the island’s pro-independence camp. Washington does not have formal diplomatic relations with Taiwan but is obligated under US law to provide the island with the means to defend itself.

Pelosi’s visit, second in a series of US presidential succession and a long-time critic of China, comes amid deteriorating relations between Washington and Beijing.

The White House dismissed China’s rhetoric as baseless and inappropriate.

Right to visit

Kirby said that nothing about Pelosi’s possible trip would change US policy toward Taiwan, and that Beijing was well aware of the division of powers within the US government which meant Pelosi would make her own decisions about the visit.

“The Speaker of Parliament has the right to visit Taiwan,” he said in a White House briefing.

During a phone call last Thursday, Chinese President Xi Jinping warned US President Joe Biden that Washington must adhere to the one-China principle and “those who play with fire will die under it.”

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

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

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(Additional reporting by Yimo Lee and Sarah Wu.) Written by Tony Munro. Editing by Stephen Coates and Simon Cameron Moore

Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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