US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi visits Taiwan

By Jessie Yeung, Rob Picheta and Megan Trimble, CNN

Updated 12:26 p.m. ET, August 4, 2022
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9:22 p.m. ET, August 2, 2022

Pelosi's plane to Taiwan took a longer route than a regular flight

The US air force jet carrying US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi to Taiwan became the most watched flight on live air traffic tracking website Flightradar24 on Tuesday evening, after the flight departed the Malaysian capital Kuala Lumpur. 

More than 700,000 users were monitoring the flight as it landed at Taipei Songshan Airport around 10:45pm Tuesday evening, the tracking portal said, adding that more than 2.92 million users followed at least a portion of the flight between Kuala Lumpur and Taipei, breaking Flightrader24 tracking records. The flight was not confirmed to be carrying Pelosi until after it touched down.

Instead of a typical route, which sends flights over the South China Sea for a roughly 4.5 hour journey from Taipei to Kuala Lumpur, the US jet instead cut a wide path eastward around the Philippines in its approach of Taiwan, according to flight tracker data. It landed after roughly seven hours in the air.

The route saw the plane steer clear of a long leg flying northeast over the South China Sea, where China has building up its military presence in recent years. 

Pelosi, who is leading a congressional delegation in Asia, had not included a stop in Taiwan in her official itinerary, though expectations that she was planning a visit have fuelled US-China tensions since reports of a potential trip emerged last month.

7:36 p.m. ET, August 2, 2022

Before Pelosi's visit, the White House warned China against escalations over her trip

From CNN's Nectar Gan, Donald Judd and Maegan Vazquez

US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi faces reporters during a news conference at the US Capitol in Washington, DC, on July 29.
US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi faces reporters during a news conference at the US Capitol in Washington, DC, on July 29. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

Ahead of Nancy Pelosi's trip to Taiwan, Biden administration officials warned China not to take escalatory actions, emphasizing that the visit would not mark a shift in American foreign policy.

"There is no reason for Beijing to turn a potential visit, consistent with longstanding US policy, into some sort of crisis or conflict, or use it as a pretext to increase aggressive military activity in or around the Taiwan Strait," National Security Council Strategic Coordinator for Communications John Kirby told reporters on Monday.

Pelosi is in Taiwan as part of her ongoing tour of Asia, which also includes stops in Malaysia, Singapore, South Korea and Japan.

That's despite warnings from Biden administration officials, who are worried about China's response to such a high-profile visit — as well as escalating rhetoric from Chinese officials.

On Monday, China warned against the "egregious political impact" of Pelosi's visit to the self-governing island that China claims as a part of its territory. Chinese officials reiterated that the nation's military "won't sit by idly" if Beijing feels its "sovereignty and territorial integrity" is being threatened.

Possible military response: "China will respond with unprecedented countermeasures — the strongest it has ever taken since the Taiwan Strait crises," said Shi Yinhong, an international relations professor at China's Renmin University, ahead of Pelosi's visit.

"If Pelosi goes ahead with her visit, the United States will certainly prepare to respond militarily to a possible Chinese military response," Shi said. "The situation between China and the US will be very tense."

But, he added, the chances are low that tensions could escalate into a full blown military conflict "unless things got out of control by accident in a way that no one can predict."

Read the full story here.

7:37 p.m. ET, August 2, 2022

Beijing warned it would take "forceful measures" ahead of Pelosi's trip, alarming some in Washington

From CNN's Nectar Gan

The United States is no stranger to China's angry responses over its support for Taiwan, a self-governing island that Beijing claims as its own territory.

But in the lead-up to Nancy Pelosi's trip to Taipei, China stepped up its warnings — which appeared to have caused concern in Washington.

US response: US President Joe Biden previously told reporters the US military thinks a Taiwan visit by Pelosi is "not a good idea right now," and his administration has tried to de-escalate the situation by reiterating that any visit would not mark a shift in American foreign policy.

However, Pelosi has said it's important to show support for Taiwan.

I think what the President was saying is that maybe the military was afraid of my plane getting shot down or something like that. I don't know exactly," Pelosi said.

And some members of Congress had argued that any decision to delay the trip, or cancel it entirely, would risk being seen as a concession.

"Speaker Pelosi should go to Taiwan and President Biden should make it abundantly clear to Chairman Xi that there's not a damn thing the Chinese Communist Party can do about it," said Republican Sen. Ben Sasse last week. "No more feebleness and self-deterrence."

Read more here.