December 4, 2022

China fired its most direct warning shot yet amid reports that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi could visit Taiwan on Friday, saying that if the speaker’s plane is joined by US fighter jets, they would not rule out shooting them.

“If American jets escort the plane from Pelosi to Taiwan, that’s an invasion. The PLA has the right to forcibly dislodge Pelosi’s plane and US fighter jets, including firing warning shots and making tactical movements of obstacles. If they aren’t effective, shoot them,” Hu Xijin, a commentator for the Chinese state-affiliated Global Times, wrote on Twitter.

Earlier, China warned the US against crossing a “red line” as it issued not-so-subtle warnings against the speaker, who China says is number three in line in the US government, to visit Taiwan.

The US must be prepared to “be prepared to bear all the consequences” if Pelosi chooses to visit Taiwan, Chinese Foreign Minister Zhao Lijian said in a briefing Friday.

The speaker has not confirmed whether she will visit island democracy on an Asian tour with stops in Japan, South Korea, Malaysia and Singapore. In response to a question about the possible trip to Taiwan on Friday, Pelosi only said, “I’m not talking about my trip because it’s a security issue.”

Speaker Pelosi has not confirmed whether she will visit island democracy on an Asian tour with stops in Japan, South Korea, Malaysia and Singapore

The speaker added: “The president spoke earlier this term about a strong emphasis on Asia-Pacific…and the United States Congress will be part of that initiative.”

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Still, tensions over the possibility have mounted, with the Chinese Navy monitoring the activities of the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan in the South China Sea.

The Reagan and his strike group left Singapore on Monday and headed for the South China Sea. The nuclear-powered warship sailed about 185 km (115 miles) from the disputed Fiery Cross Reef on Thursday, according to the South China Post. If the ships continue in their direction, they will reach the Taiwan Strait.

Two other ships – identified by Vietnam-based maritime observer Duan Dang as a Chinese Type 052D destroyer and a Type 054A frigate – were spotted 27 km and 23 km away.

Meanwhile, the Chinese navy is conducting military exercises off the south coast near Guangdong, following exercises in nearby Hainan province.

President Biden said last week that the Pentagon thought a trip to Taiwan was “not a good idea.”

“Well, I don’t think the military thinks it’s a good idea at this point,” Biden said in response to a question about Pelosi’s reported trip. “But I don’t know what its status is.”

President Joe Biden posted an image to his Twitter on Thursday morning of a two-hour conversation with Chinese President Xi Jinping — the fifth between the two since Biden took office.

Xi warned Biden, according to Chinese state media, “Whoever plays with fire will only burn himself. I hope the American side can see this clearly’

Biden and President Xi Jinping spoke on the phone on Thursday, where China claimed to have issued a stern warning ahead of the unconfirmed trip.

Chinese state media released some excerpts from the call, including Xi telling Biden, “Whoever plays with fire will only be burned. I hope the American side can see this clearly.”

When asked whether this statement was an escalation of tensions, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre declined and declined to comment.

“They had a very direct conversation. They’ve known each other for a while. President Biden has known President Xi for about four decades,” Karine said during her daily briefing on Thursday.

Jean-Pierre went on if the call helped to ease tensions, reiterating that the call was “straightforward”, but declined to comment further.

China considers Taiwan part of its territory, although Taiwan sees itself as a self-ruled territory. The US has long practiced “strategic ambiguity” – purposely not revealing whether it would help Taiwan if China invaded and only maintain unofficial relations. In recent years, those unofficial relations have grown closer, and Biden has repeatedly slipped in on the defense of Taiwan before White House officials come back and say the US stance has not changed.