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US Military Making Plans In Case Pelosi Travels To Taiwan

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SYDNEY, July 27 (AP): 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 hottest spots, where a mishap, mis-step or misunderstanding could endanger her safety. So the Pentagon is developing plans for any contingency.

Officials told The Associated Press that if Pelosi goes to Taiwan — still an uncertainty — the military would increase its movement of forces and assets in the Indo-Pacific region.

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They declined to provide details, but said that fighter jets, ships, surveillance assets 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 travel by a senior US leader requires additional security. But officials said this week that a visit to Taiwan by Pelosi — she would be the highest-ranking US elected official to visit Taiwan since 1997 — would go beyond the usual safety precautions for trips to less risky destinations.

Asked about planned military steps to protect Pelosi in the event of a visit, US Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said on Wednesday that discussion of any specific travel is premature.

But, he added, “if there’s a decision made that Speaker Pelosi or anyone else is going to travel and they asked for military support, we will do what is necessary to ensure a safe conduct of their visit. And I’ll just leave it at that”.

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China considers self-ruling Taiwan its own territory and has raised the prospect of annexing it by force. The US maintains informal relations and defence ties with Taiwan even as it recognises Beijing as the government of China.

The trip is being considered at a time when China has escalated what the US and its allies in the Pacific describe as risky one-on-one confrontations with other militaries to assert its sweeping territorial claims.

The incidents have included dangerously close fly-bys that force other pilots to swerve to avoid collisions, or harassment or obstruction of air and ship crews, including with blinding lasers or water cannon.

Dozens of such manoeuvres have occurred this year alone, Ely Ratner, US assistant defence secretary, said on Tuesday at a South China Sea forum by the Centre for Strategic and International Studies. China denies the incidents.

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The US officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive security issues, described the need to create buffer zones around the speaker and her plane.

The US already has substantial forces spread across the region, so any increased security could largely be handled by assets already in place.

The military would also have to be prepared for any incident — even an accident either in the air or on the ground. They said the US would need to have rescue capabilities nearby and suggested that could include helicopters on ships already in the area.

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

The White House on Monday declined to weigh in directly on the matter, noting she had not confirmed the trip. But President Joe Biden last week raised concerns about it, telling reporters that the military thinks her trip is “not a good idea right now”.

A Pelosi trip may well loom over a call planned for Thursday between Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping, their first conversation in four months. A US official confirmed plans for the call to The Associated Press on the condition of anonymity ahead of the formal announcement.

US officials have said the administration doubts that China would take direct action against Pelosi herself or try to sabotage the visit. But they don’t rule out the possibility that China could escalate provocative overflights of military aircraft in or near Taiwanese airspace and naval patrols in the Taiwan Strait should the trip take place. And they don’t preclude Chinese actions elsewhere in the region as a show of strength.

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

The biggest risk during Pelosi’s trip is of some Chinese show of force “gone awry, or some type of accident that comes out of a demonstration of provocative action”, said Mark Cozad, acting associate director of the International Security and Defence Policy Centre at the Rand Corp.

“So it could be an air collision. It could be some sort of missile test, and, again, when you’re doing those types of things, you know, there is always the possibility that something could go wrong.”

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The Hills Times
The Hills Timeshttps://www.thehillstimes.in/
The Hills Times, a largely circulated English daily published from Diphu and printed in Guwahati, having vast readership in hills districts of Assam, and neighbouring Nagaland, Meghalaya, Arunachal Pradesh and Manipur.
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