The US military has begun developing contingency plans for any incident that may occur if House Speaker Nancy Pelosi follows through with her reported plan to travel to Taiwan next month — after President Biden said last week they believed it would be better for her to stay home.
The Associated Press, citing multiple US officials, reported that if Pelosi (D-Calif.) travels to Taiwan, the Pentagon will step up its movement of forces and other assets in the Indo-Pacific region.
Fighter jets, ships, surveillance assets and other military systems would likely be used to create buffer zones securing Pelosi’s flight to the island nation. Security on the ground would also be bolstered to prevent any incidents while the speaker is in the country.
The officials also told the AP that if Pelosi follows through with the trip, the US would need to provide rescue capabilities – such as helicopters posted on nearby ships and ready for departure at a moment’s notice.
While senior US officials typically receive additional security when traveling to foreign nations, a Pelosi trip to Taiwan would make her the highest-ranking elected official to visit since then-House Speaker Newt Gingrich in 1997.
Pentagon spokesman Martin Meiners declined to comment on the reported plans, telling The Post, “It wouldn’t be appropriate to comment on any congressional travel possibilities.”
While Pelosi has yet to formally announce a trip to Taiwan, Gen. Mark Milley – chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff – said Wednesday that if she “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.”
Meanwhile, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin avoided commenting Wednesday, but did inform reporters that he spoke to the speaker to give her his “assessment of the security situation.”
Last Wednesday, President Biden indicated that the Pentagon had concerns over the reported trip saying, “the military thinks it’s not a good idea right now.”
The Financial Times first reported last week that the speaker was planning to lead a delegation to Taiwan next month, citing six people familiar with the plans.
The report immediately sparked backlash from Chinese officials, who warned it would deal a setback to relations between Washington and Beijing.
“The US Congress is part of the US government and supposed to strictly adhere to the US’s one-China policy,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijan told at the time.
“If Speaker Pelosi visits Taiwan, it would seriously violate the one-China principle … It will have a severe negative impact on the political foundation of the China-US relations, and send a gravely wrong signal to ‘Taiwan independence’ separatists forces.”
Beijing ramped up its warnings over the weekend, even threatening a potential military response.
“If the US side is bent on going its own way, China will take strong measures to resolutely respond and counteract,” Zhao said, adding: “The United States should be held responsible for any serious consequences.”
Zhao reiterated the message Wednesday, saying a Pelosi visit would “surely be met with forceful responses.”
While US officials have expressed doubt that China would take direct action against Pelosi if she visited Taiwan, there have been growing concerns Beijing would launch military action against the island – which China has long claimed is a part of its territory.
This week, air raid sirens blared in the capital of Taipei as Taiwan’s military staged defense exercises.
For decades, the US has maintained a policy of strategic ambiguity towards Taiwan — acknowledging Beijing’s claim to the island but not endorsing it.
As Pelosi weighs the pros and cons of a potential trip, several top Republicans have encouraged her to move forward with the reported plans.
“If she doesn’t go now, she’s handling China a — sort of a victory of sorts,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said during a news conference Tuesday.
“Speaker Pelosi should go to Taiwan and President Biden should make it abundantly clear to Chairman Xi [Jinping] that there’s not a damn thing the Chinese Communist Party can do about it,” Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) said in a statement Monday. “No more feebleness and self-deterrence. This is very simple: Taiwan is an ally and the Speaker of the House of Representatives should meet with the Taiwanese men and women who stare down the threat of Communist China.”