Speaker of the US House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi departed for Taipei on Tuesday, August 2, amidst growing warnings from China. At the same time, four US warships, including an aircraft carrier, were positioned in waters east of the island on "routine" deployments.
A US Navy official confirmed to Reuters on Tuesday that the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan had transited the South China Sea and was currently in the Philippines Sea, east of Taiwan and the Philippines and south of Japan.
The Reagan operates with the guided missile cruiser USS Antietam and the destroyer USS Higgins, all of which are headquartered in Japan.
While they are prepared for any situation, these deployments are familiar and routine, the official said on condition of anonymity. Additionally, the official stated that they could not comment on specific places.
The US Navy official stated that the amphibious assault ship USS Tripoli was also in the vicinity as part of a deployment that began in early May from San Diego.
According to persons briefed on the situation, Pelosi, a longtime opponent of China, was set to arrive in Taipei later on Tuesday, as the United States vowed not to be frightened by Chinese "saber-rattling" over the visit.
Ahead of Pelosi's arrival, indications of military action on both sides of the Taiwan Strait have confirmed the deployments.
In addition to Chinese aircraft flying near the median line dividing the sensitive waterway on Tuesday morning, multiple Chinese vessels have remained close to the unofficial dividing line since Monday, according to a source briefed on the subject who spoke with Reuters.
The Chinese foreign and defense ministries did not react quickly to calls for comment.
According to the source, Chinese warships and aircraft "squeezed" the median line on Tuesday morning, a maneuver seen as "very provocative" Taiwanese aircraft were on standby nearby. In contrast, according to the source, the Chinese aircraft kept "touching" the middle line and circled back to the opposite side of the strait on Tuesday morning.
In general, neither side's planes cross the median line.
As tensions escalate with China, Taiwan's Defense Ministry stated on Tuesday that they understand military activity near Taiwan and will appropriately dispatch forces in response to "enemy threats."
The ministry "reinforced" its combat vigilance level from Tuesday morning to Thursday midday, according to the island's official Central News Agency, citing unnamed sources.
Residents of the south-eastern Chinese city of Xiamen, which lies beside Taiwan and is home to a significant military presence, reported sightings of armored vehicles in motion and shared images online. Reuters has not yet confirmed the pictures.
Chinese social media was buzzing with apprehension and patriotic fervor around the possibility of unification with Taiwan.
During the previous week, the People's Liberation Army conducted many exercises, including live-fire drills, in the South China, Yellow, and Bohan Seas.
Some regional military strategists believe that higher deployments during heightened tension increase the likelihood of mishaps, even if neither side desires a full-scale war.