Military activity has increased near Taiwan as US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi appeared ready to make a controversial visit.
Four United States warships, including an aircraft carrier, have taken up positions in waters east of Taiwan in what the US Navy called routine deployments amid rising Chinese anger over an expected visit to the island by House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
Pelosi is expected to arrive in Taipei later on Tuesday, people briefed on the matter said, as the US said it would not be intimidated by Chinese warnings against the visit of the highest ranking US official to travel to the island since 1997.
The carrier USS Ronald Reagan had transited the South China Sea and was currently in the Philippines Sea, east of Taiwan and the Philippines and south of Japan, a US Navy official told the Reuters news agency on Tuesday.
The Japan-based Reagan is operating with a guided missile cruiser, USS Antietam, and a destroyer, USS Higgins.
“While they are able to respond to any eventuality, these are normal, routine deployments,” said the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
The official, who would not comment on the precise locations of the warships, said the amphibious assault ship USS Tripoli was also in the area.
Signs have emerged of military activity on both sides of the Taiwan Strait ahead of Pelosi’s visit.
Chinese planes flew close to the median line dividing the waterway on Tuesday morning and several Chinese warships had remained close to the unofficial dividing line since Monday, a source briefed on the matter told Reuters.
China’s defense and foreign ministries did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
The source said that Chinese aircraft repeatedly conducted tactical moves of briefly “touching” the median line and circling back to the other side of the strait while Taiwanese aircraft were on standby nearby. The moves by China were described as provocative.
Neither side’s aircraft normally cross the median line.
The source also said three other Chinese warships on Tuesday carried out drills to simulate attacks on carrier-borne aircraft in waters east of Taiwan.
The ships had been tracked sailing through Japan’s southern islands at the weekend, the Japanese defense forces said.
Since last week, China’s People’s Liberation Army has conducted various exercises, including live fire drills, in the South China, Yellow and Bohai seas.
Some regional military analysts say that increased deployments at a time of tension increased the risk of accidents, even if no side wants an actual conflict.