Chinese jets could intercept Pelosi’s plane – state media
Chinese warplanes could fire shells ahead of Nancy Pelosi’s plane if the US Speaker of the House attempts to land on the self-governed island of Taiwan, China’s state-run newspaper the Global Times warned on Tuesday.
Taiwan hasn’t been mentioned among the destinations of Pelosi’s ongoing Asian tour, which include Singapore, Malaysia, South Korea and Japan, but media reports, citing officials from Washington and Taipei, have suggested that she may still fly to the island.
Beijing, which considers Taiwan an integral part of its territory – under the One China policy – has been angered by the speculation and has vowed to respond if the trip takes place.
The Global Times has detailed in its article the means that China could employ to target Pelosi and her entourage.
Chinese military aviation expert Fu Qianshao told the English-language outlet that the country’s air force was capable of regular patrols around Taiwan, meaning that the US official’s attempt to reach the island won’t go unnoticed.
“If Pelosi’s aircraft enters our exercise area, we would have to take measures to eject, intercept, escort, and send a radio warning,” he said.
But if those measures won’t work and “Pelosi gets her way, our warplanes may fire shells diagonally ahead of Pelosi's plane as a further warning,” Fu insisted.
The Chinese military conducted mock air combat training aimed at “improving the pilots’ ability to quickly enter combat status for abnormal situations at any time” ahead of the US House speaker’s Asian tour, which kicked off in Singapore on Monday.
“This is a clear signal sent by the PLA (People's Liberation Army) that China is fully capable of setting up an all-weather defense for intercepting any aircraft seeking to enter the island from any direction,” Global Times pointed out.
Fu also insisted China had any US military escort could do little to protect the House Speaker in case of an actual confrontation due to China's massive military advantage. A US Navy strike group, led by the USS Ronald Reagan aircraft carrier, has been spotted off the Philippines not far from Taiwan, according to a Chinese report on Monday.
Taiwan-based expert Chiu Yi suggested that Pelosi will likely try getting to the island from its eastern side where there’s less Chinese military presence. “But isn’t it hilarious that the No.3 political figure in the world's No.1 country is hiding like a rat and being smug about it?” Chiu wondered.
Speaking about a possible visit by Pelosi during his briefing on Monday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian warned that “if you play with fire, you will get burned. I believe the US is fully aware of the strong and clear message delivered by China.”
If Pelosi comes to Taiwan “the PLA will not sit idly by” and will take “resolute and strong countermeasures” to protect China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, he said. “If she dares to go, let’s wait and see,” Zhao added.
Taiwan, which officially calls itself the Republic of China (ROC), has been self-governed since 1949, but never officially declared independence from Beijing.
Despite recognizing Beijing as the sole legitimate authority in China since 1979, the US maintains strong unofficial ties with island, selling state-of-the-art weapons to Taipei and supporting its push for sovereignty, much to the displeasure of the Chinese authorities.