House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s (D-CA) defiant venture into Taiwan included a three-hour detour in an apparent bid to avoid the South China Sea, where China has built up its military presence.
Her flight took a curve around Borneo and the Philippines instead of taking the relatively direct path between Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, and Taipei, Taiwan, experts tracking the U.S. Air Force plane believed to have transported Pelosi and her congressional delegation told the Wall Street Journal.
CHINESE LIVE-FIRE EXERCISES COMMENCE AROUND TAIWAN AS US WARSHIPS DEPLOY
“Our delegation’s visit to Taiwan honors America’s unwavering commitment to supporting Taiwan’s vibrant Democracy. Our discussions with Taiwan leadership reaffirm our support for our partner & promote our shared interests, including advancing a free & open Indo-Pacific region,” Pelosi tweeted Tuesday.
The flight from Kuala Lumpur to Taipei typically takes four hours and 15 minutes, but tracking of the plane believed to have transported Pelosi between those capital cities took over seven hours, according to Ian Petchenik, a spokesman for Flightradar24. At one point, more than 700,000 people were tracking the aircraft via the website, per the report.
China has made sweeping claims to sovereignty over the South China Sea that have been disputed by the United States and neighboring countries in the region, such as Vietnam. In recent years, Beijing has bolstered its military resources in the region amid the dispute.
“They were doing whatever they deemed necessary to keep the plane safe,” said Bonnie Glaser, Asia program director of the think tank German Marshall Fund of the United States, according to the Wall Street Journal, which noted she said the path also avoided the Taiwan Strait.
Ahead of Pelosi’s Asia trip, China publicly rebuked the House speaker, escalated threats against Taiwan, and conducted military exercises around the island in a show of force. Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan makes her the highest-ranking U.S. official to visit in over two decades.
Taiwan is an independent island nation off the coast of mainland China. The Chinese Communist Party has long sought to bring the territory under its control, even though Taiwan is self-governed and receives U.S. defense support despite not being formally recognized by the latter.
The U.S. military isn’t sitting idly by, according to reports. The nuclear-powered carrier USS Ronald Reagan, guided missile cruiser USS Antietam, destroyer USS Higgins, and amphibious assault ship USS Tripoli were all deployed to the waters east of Taiwan just before Pelosi’s visit, according to an anonymous military official speaking with Reuters.
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Pelosi arrived in Taiwan late Tuesday local time. Her itinerary for Wednesday includes a 9 a.m. local time bipartisan meeting with top Taiwanese lawmakers, a 10:30 a.m. meeting with Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen, a press event at 10:53 a.m., and a 3 p.m. meeting with activists, per the Wall Street Journal.
She is expected to leave Taiwan around 5 p.m. local time.