Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin directed a Naval battle group to remain on station near Taiwan for longer than initially planned after China commenced massive military exercises in response to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to the island.
The USS Ronald Reagan and the warships that make up her carrier strike group (CSG) will conduct maneuvers through the Taiwan Strait, where China is currently launching missiles, “in the next few weeks,” National Security Council Strategic Communications Coordinator John Kirby said Thursday. The strike group will monitor activities in the waters surrounding Taiwan, Kirby said, “for a little bit longer than they were originally planned to be.”
“The President believed that it was the prudent thing to do, to leave [the Reagan] and her escort ships there just a little bit longer,” said Kirby. He declined to provide further details. (RELATED: US Deploys Aircraft Carrier On China’s Doorstep As Taiwan Tensions Ramp Up)
The live fire exercises come as a response to Pelosi’s controversial visit to Taiwan, a country China views as a breakaway region, but has a discrete relationship with the U.S. While the White House denied supporting Taiwanese independence Monday, Pelosi affirmed her support for a free and democratic government in Taiwan during a meeting with President Tsai Ing-Wen Wednesday.
The CSG’s upcoming “standard” transit through the Taiwan Strait will be consistent with the U.S.’ “longstanding approach to defending freedom of the seas and international law,” Kirby added.
The Reagan first departed for the South China Sea from the Philippines on July 26 before entering the Philippine Sea, a 2.2 million square mile swath of water encompassing Taiwan, some time before Aug. 1, USNI reported. China began joint military and air exercises Aug. 2, with live fire exercises in six areas surrounding Taiwan scheduled from Thursday to Sunday.
However, the Reagan CSG conducted “scheduled operations as part of her routine patrol in support of a free and open Indo-Pacific” as of Thursday, a spokesperson for the U.S. Navy’s Seventh Fleet told the Daily Caller News Foundation.
In addition, a Navy spokesperson told the DCNF Wednesday evening that there were “no changes to the schedule to report.”
Sailors aboard the U.S. Navy’s only forward-deployed aircraft carrier @Gipper_76 participate in flight operations on the ship’s flight deck while underway in the Philippine Sea.#ReaganReady | #AlwaysReady | #FlightOps | #FreeandOpenIndoPacific pic.twitter.com/Q6Sba929i9
— 7th Fleet (@US7thFleet) August 4, 2022
China has dispatched 68 aircraft and 13 vessels since the start of the exercises as of Friday morning, a portion of which crossed the median line in the Strait dividing Taiwan from the mainland, according to the Taiwanese Ministry of Defense. No unsafe encounters occurred between U.S. and Chinese naval forces operating in the area as of Thursday morning, U.S. Naval Institute News reported.
A spokesperson for the Navy’s Pacific Fleet directed the DCNF to the White House in response to Kirby’s comments.
“We are prepared for what China may do,” Kirby said at the briefing Thursday, adding that the U.S. can use a variety of means to put pressure on China.
The U.S. did not deploy additional military contingents to the Asia-Pacific ahead of Pelosi’s visit, Reuters reported.
The White House, Navy, Pentagon, and Seventh Fleet did not immediately respond to the Daily Caller News Foundation’s requests for comment.
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