Two US capital ships and their support vessels operating near the South China Sea are ready as a “contingency option” ahead of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s tentative Taiwan visit Tuesday night, USNI News revealed, citing a senior defense official.
The aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan and amphibious ship USS Tripoli are sailing near Taiwan, the outlet added.
US Navy spokesperson Mark Langford told Business Insider that the USS Ronald Reagan departed Singapore after a scheduled visit on July 22 and is “continuing normal, scheduled operations as part of her routine patrol in support of a free and open Indo-Pacific.”
Warships Equipped With Super Hornets, F-35s
The carrier strike group includes the Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Antietam and the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Higgins.
The warships carry a range of fixed and rotary wing assets such as the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet, EA-18G Growler, E-2D Hawkeye, C-2A Greyhound, and MH-60S Seahawk and MH-60R Seahawk helicopters.
The 45,000-ton USS Tripoli boasts a fleet of up to 20 short take-off, vertical landing F-35Bs.
The development comes on the heels of China’s warning that the US would “bear the consequences” of Pelosi’s visit to the self-ruling island territory, considered by Beijing as part of its sovereign territory.
Beijing announced that the visit of the third most senior US official could draw a military response.
“If the US insists on taking its own course, the Chinese military will never sit idly by, and it will definitely take strong actions to thwart any external force’s interference,” a spokesperson for China’s Ministry of Defense, Senior Colonel Tan Kefei said, referring to the visit.
Pentagon Plans ‘Overlapping Rings of Protection’
The Pentagon has been planning for the Democrat’s potential visit, increasing the movement of air and sea assets in the Indo-Pacific region and providing “overlapping rings of protection for her flight to Taiwan and any time on the ground there,” a senior defense official revealed to the Associated Press.
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley added, “if there’s a decision made that Speaker Pelosi or anyone else is going to travel and they asked for military support, we will do what is necessary to ensure safe conduct of their visit. And I’ll just leave it at that.”
Pelosi would be the most senior US official to visit Taiwan since Republican Newt Gingrich — also as House Speaker — made the trip in 1997. She was scheduled to visit in April but the visit was postponed after she tested positive for COVID-19.
According to Financial Times, she is tentatively scheduled to touch down in Taiwan during her Asian tour, which includes visits to Singapore, Malaysia, South Korea, and Japan.