Officials in the Biden administration are concerned that China may seek to declare a no-fly zone over Taiwan ahead of a possible visit by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, potentially escalating tensions in the region, according to a US official.
China could also respond by flying fighter jets deeper into Taiwan's self-declared air defense zone, triggering a response from Taiwan and the US, according to the official. They did not elaborate on a potential response.
In recent months, China has repeatedly deployed warplanes into Taiwan's self-declared air defense zone identification zone, an act that does not violate any international law but frequently prompts Taiwan to take preventative defensive steps, including occasionally scrambling its fighter jets.
The island's territorial airspace, which extends 12 nautical miles from its coast, has not been breached by Chinese aircraft. China has been urged by the State Department to stop intimidating Taiwan.
According to three sources familiar with the planning process, Pelosi has been arranging a trip to Taiwan in the upcoming weeks. Pelosi would be the highest-ranking US lawmaker to visit Taiwan in 25 years, despite the fact that other members of Congress and previous US officials have already done so this year. In 1997, former Speaker Newt Gingrich visited there.
In recent months, tensions over Taiwan have grown between Washington and Beijing. Long claiming Taiwan, which is democratically run, as part of its territory, the Chinese Communist Party has frequently pledged to "reunify" with the 24 million-person island, even though it has never held power there. Although recent military deliveries to Taiwan have been delayed to arrive, which has worried U.S. politicians, the US has pledged to give Taiwan the capacity to defend itself.
When asked to comment on the airspace issues, the Chinese embassy in Washington directed CNN to the comments made by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokeswoman, who stated steadfast opposition to a potential Pelosi visit.
Pelosi's visitation intentions were initially reported by The Financial Times. Earlier this week, President Joe Biden acknowledged worries expressed by the U.S. military on Pelosi's potential travel.
"I think that the military thinks it's not a good idea right now, but I don't know what the status is," when questioned on Wednesday about Pelosi visiting the autonomous island, Biden responded.
Pelosi emphasized the significance of supporting Taiwan on Thursday, but she stated that she would not be discussing any travel arrangements due to security concerns. Pelosi claimed to have heard "anecdotally" about Biden's remarks regarding her potential visit, but she claimed not to have heard anything directly from the President.