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Even If China Doesn’t Shoot Down Pelosi’s Plane, Military Action Over Taiwan Is On The Table

(Photo by ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS/AFP via Getty Images)

Mary Rooke Staff Writer
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House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s plan to visit Taiwan despite Chinese threats puts the U.S. at an increased risk of war with the Communist country known for protecting its perceived sovereignty, China experts warned.

When the Financial Times reported earlier in July that Pelosi’s trip to the Indo-Pacific region would include a stop in Taiwan, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), which asserts Taiwan is under China’s control, warned such a visit by Pelosi would warrant its military taking “forceful measures” in response. Amid China’s threats, President Joe Biden told reporters July 20 that the U.S. military thought it was “not a good idea” for Pelosi to go through with making Taiwan a stop on her trip, which includes diplomatic events in South Korea, Japan, Malaysia and Singapore.

Hu Xijin, former editor-in-chief of the Global Times (a CCP-controlled publication), later fanned the flames by sending a now-deleted tweet suggesting the CCP should consider Pelosi’s trip an “invasion” if she is escorted by the U.S. military.

“If US fighter jets escort Pelosi’s plane into Taiwan, it is invasion,” tweeted Xijun. “The PLA (People’s Liberation Army) has the right to forcibly dispel Pelosi’s plane and the US fighter jets, including firing warning shots and making the tactical movement of obstruction. If ineffective, then shoot them down.”

Pelosi’s Sunday press release announcing the members and itinerary for the congressional delegation to the Indo-Pacific region did not include a stop in Taiwan. However, U.S. and Taiwanese officials confirmed Pelosi has plans to stop in Taipei overnight, CNN reported Monday.

Economist and Asia Times columnist David P. Goldman said in a tweet Monday that a former U.N. ambassador warned that if Pelosi traveled to Taiwan, China may view her trip as a violation of a 1972 U.S.-China diplomatic agreement, the Shanghai Communique, and respond accordingly. (RELATED: ‘Do Not Support’: Biden Official Reaffirms Taiwan Policy Ahead Of Pelosi Trip)

During the Nixon administration, the U.S. forged ahead with easing tensions and improving diplomatic relations with China, including the U.S. agreeing to stay out of the dispute over Taiwan’s independence. Since the agreement, the U.S. has followed the “One China” policy in which the U.S. acknowledges there is only one Chinese government controlling several islands. The U.S., however, has continued to foster a “robust unofficial relationship” with Taiwan for decades, according to a Department of State fact sheet.

“Just so it’s clear,” Goldman tweeted. “Pelosi is Constitutionally 2nd in line to POTUS, so this is a state visit from the standpoint of diplomatic protocol. That, as a former US UN ambassador told me, is a clear violation of the ’72 Shanghai Communique. That’s why China will respond.”

The PLA released a video encouraging Chinese citizens to “prepare for war” on the Chinese social media app Weibo, which received 300,000 positive reactions within 12 hours of its posting Friday, the state-run Global Times reported.

“We must bear in mind the fundamental responsibility of preparing for war and charge on the journey of a strong army,” the PLA’s 80th Group Army reportedly stated.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian told reporters during a regular briefing Monday that Pelosi visiting Taiwan would result in “strong countermeasures,” Reuters reported.

“We would like to tell the U.S. once again that China is standing by, and the Chinese People’s Liberation Army will never sit idly by,” Lijian reportedly said. “China will take resolute responses and strong countermeasures to defend its sovereignty and territorial integrity. As for what measures, if she dares to go, then let’s wait and see.”

White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby warned Monday that China seems to be preparing to respond to Pelosi’s planned trip by “positioning itself” for possible “military provocations,” Business Insider reported. Kirby told reporters that China’s response could include “firing missiles in the Taiwan Strait or around Taiwan” and “operations that break historical norms, such as large-scale air entry into Taiwan’s air defense identification zone,” according to the outlet.

Former American Enterprise Institute Jeane Kirkpatrick Visiting Fellow Michael Beckley and American Enterprise Institute senior fellow Hal Brands wrote that China goes to war with adversaries perceived to be attacking its sovereign territory in a piece in The Atlantic titled “What Will Drive China to War?

“To be clear, every decision for war is complex, and factors including domestic politics and the personality quirks of individual leaders have also figured in China’s choices to fight,” the two wrote in October 2021. “Yet the overarching pattern of behavior is consistent: Beijing turns violent when confronted with the prospect of permanently losing control of territory. It tends to attack one enemy to scare off others.”

Republican Florida Rep. Mike Waltz, a retired Green Beret commander, told Fox News on Friday that if China responds to Pelosi’s trip by shooting down her plane, the U.S. must take it as an act of war. (RELATED: ‘We Must Arm Taiwan’: Hawley Spearheads Effort To Thwart Chinese Aggression)

Waltz said China’s threats against Pelosi were “unacceptable” and the Biden administration needs to “make it clear that should any harm come to Speaker Pelosi and her trip to Taiwan, it’s tantamount to a declaration of war.”

Director of MIT’s Security Studies Program M. Taylor Fravel warned on Twitter that China’s response to Pelosi visiting Taiwan “will almost certainly include a military component,” like “live fire exercises, a much greater military presence within the Taiwan Strait and [especially] across ‘the median line,’ even missile tests.”

“The response will also include economic and diplomatic actions, probably mostly targeting Taiwan,” Fravel tweeted. “The response will likely unfold over days if not weeks, but likely start after Pelosi departs Taiwan. Unlike previous CODELs even earlier this year, China will do more than surge aircraft into Taiwan’s ADIZ for a day or two.”

Fravel added that although it’s likely that China’s goal is to show force “without sparking escalation,” China’s increased “military component” in an area with “significant U.S. naval assets” allows a “potential for miscalculation.”

The U.K.’s national security adviser, Sir Stephen Lovegrove, said during a Friday speech that backdoor channels between China and western countries, like the U.S. and the U.K., have dissolved to the point of an increased potential for war, including nuclear.

“During the cold war, we benefited from a series of negotiations and dialogues that improved our understanding of Soviet doctrine and capabilities, and vice versa. This gave us both a higher level of confidence that we would not miscalculate our way into nuclear war,” Lovegrove said at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies on Friday.

Lovegrove warned the breakdown of communication with China “may threaten us in the future.”

“We have clear concerns about China’s nuclear modernization program that will increase both the number and types of nuclear weapon systems in its arsenal,” Lovegrove said.

China allegedly successfully tested its “Fractional Orbital Bombardment System” designed to evade U.S. military defense systems while circling the globe before hitting its target, the Financial Times reported in 2021.

“The simplest way to think about China’s orbital bombardment system is to imagine a space shuttle, put a nuclear weapon into the cargo bay, and forget about the landing gear,” Jeffrey Lewis, East Asia Nonproliferation Program director at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies, wrote in Foreign Policy.

The U.S. reportedly spent around $70 billion to construct the Ground-based Midcourse Defense system in Alaska, but China’s orbital bombardment system can “get those warheads to U.S. soil much faster” by going over the South Pole, Lewis wrote.