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Chinese fighter buzz draws line dividing Taiwan strait ahead of expected Pelosi visit

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© Reuters. The front page of a newspaper covering US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi is pictured in Taipei, Taiwan, August 2, 2022. REUTERS / Ann Wang

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By Yimou Lee and Sarah Wu

A source told Reuters.

China has repeatedly warned against Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan, which it claims as its own, and the United States said on Monday it would not be intimidated by China’s “cutlery sword”. about the visit.

In addition to Chinese planes flying close to the dividing line of the sensitive waterway on Tuesday morning, several Chinese warships have continued to sail near the unofficial dividing line since Monday, the source told Reuters. .

The source said both Chinese warships and aircraft “squeezed” the dividing line on Tuesday morning, an unusual move the person described as “very provocative.”

The person said that the Chinese aircraft repeatedly made tactical maneuvers to “touch” the median in a short time and return to the other side of the strait on Tuesday morning, while the Taiwanese aircraft was flying. in standby nearby.

Neither side’s planes passed the median.

In a statement on Tuesday, Taiwan’s Ministry of National Defense said it was fully aware of military activities near Taiwan and would appropriately mobilize forces to respond to “enemy threats.” “.

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

In the southeastern Chinese city of Xiamen, which faces Taiwan and is home to a large military presence, residents said they saw armored vehicles moving on Tuesday and posted photos online. .

Chinese social media is buzzing with both anxiety about potential conflict and patriotic fervor at the prospect of reunification with Taiwan, and the topic of Pelosi’s visit is the top trending item on the internet. Weibo is like Twitter (NASDAQ:).

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

“Everything is uncertain,” the person said.

Taiwan’s Liberty Times reported that Pelosi’s delegation would arrive at 10:20 p.m. (14:20 GMT) on Tuesday, without naming the source.

Pelosi visited Malaysia on Tuesday, after kicking off her Asia tour in Singapore on Monday. Her office said she would also visit South Korea and Japan, but did not mention a visit to Taiwan.

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

White House national security spokesman John Kirby (NYSE:) said Beijing’s responses could include firing missiles near Taiwan, large-scale air or naval operations, or ” fake legal claims” such as China’s assertion that the Taiwan Strait is not an international waterway. reporters in Washington on Monday.

“We won’t be decoy or engage in sword attacks. At the same time, we won’t be intimidated,” Kirby said.

‘HOT COMMUNICATION’

Four sources said Pelosi had scheduled a meeting with a small group of activists outspoken about China’s human rights record on Wednesday afternoon.

The meeting will likely take place at the National Museum of Human Rights in New Taipei City, according to a source with direct knowledge of the matter.

On Monday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said it would be “brutal interference in China’s internal affairs” if Pelosi visited Taiwan, warning that “the military China’s People’s Liberation Army will never sit idly by.”

When asked what measures the PLA could take, Zhao said: “If she dares to go, then let’s wait and see.”

China considers visits by US officials to Taiwan, an autonomous island claimed by Beijing, as an encouraging signal to the island’s pro-independence camp. Washington has no formal diplomatic relations with Taiwan but is bound by US law to provide the island with the means to defend itself.

The visit by Pelosi, the second in line to the US presidential line of succession and a longtime critic of China, will come amid deteriorating relations between Washington and Beijing.

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

‘RIGHTS TO VISIT’

Kirby said that nothing about Pelosi’s possible trip has changed US policy towards Taiwan and that Beijing is well aware the division of power within the US government means that Pelosi will make a move. own decision about the visit.

“The speaker has the right to visit Taiwan,” he told the meeting at the White House.

In a phone call last Thursday, Chinese President Xi Jinping warned US President Joe Biden that Washington should adhere to the one China principle and that “those who play with fire will be destroyed by it.” .

Biden told Xi that US policy towards Taiwan has not changed and that Washington strongly opposes 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 renounced the use of force to bring the island under its control. Taiwan rejects China’s claim and says only its people can decide the future of the island.

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