A US aircraft carrier and its strike group are operating in the South China Sea ahead of a highly contentious potential visit to Taiwan by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the US Navy says.
The USS Ronald Reagan departed Singapore on 26 July after a scheduled port visit and is in the contested waters “in support of a free and open Indo-Pacific region”, according to a Navy press release.
Ms Pelosi’s rumoured visit to Taiwan has sparked rising tensions between the two global superpowers.
China has threatened to take “forceful measures” if Ms Pelosi makes the trip, while the US is ramping up its military presence in the region.
Presidents Joe Biden and Xi Jinping were scheduled to hold the fifth talk of their presidencies on Thursday morning.
“The president wants to make sure that the lines of communication with President Xi remain open because they need to,” US national security spokesman John Kirby told reporters at a White House briefing, as per the Associated Press.
“There are issues where we can cooperate with China on, and there are issues where obviously there are friction and tension.”
The US House speaker had planned to visit the island in April, but that was cancelled after she tested positive for Covid.
She is expected to reschedule the trip, which would see her become the highest-ranking US politician to travel to Taiwan since 1997.
On Wednesday, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Mark Milley said in an interview with Australian public broadcasterABC that China’s increasing military strength was “very, very concerning”.
“If in fact, Speaker Pelosi decides to travel, I don’t know that it will increase tension. There is certainly some rhetoric that is coming out of China that is quite disturbing.”
General Milley said China was close to having the military might to invade Taiwan, but there were no signs an attack was imminent.
“It’s clear the Chinese are developing the capabilities in all the domains in space and cyber but also the traditional domains of land, sea and air to conduct a cross-channel attack, an invasion if you will, to seize the island of Taiwan if they made the political decision to do so.”