Two U.S. capital ships and their escorts are operating in the Western Pacific near Taiwan, USNI News has learned.
Aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN-76) and big deck amphibious ship USS Tripoli (LHA-7), with Marine F-35B Lighting II Joint Strike Fighters embarked, are operating in the vicinity of Taiwan, on the edge of the South China Sea ahead of a Western Pacific visit from U.S. House Speaker Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) to the region, according to the Aug. 1 edition of the USNI News Fleet and Marine Tracker. An earlier version of this post indicated USS America (LHA-6) was underway but it is in port in Sasebo, Japan, U.S. Pacific Fleet told USNI News on Monday afternoon.
A Pentagon spokesman told USNI News on Monday that the ships were operating normally in the region and would not detail force protection measures for the visit of the third highest-ranking U.S. official to the region.
However, a senior defense official told USNI News the ships, escorts and their air wings – already in the region – were prepared to linger as a contingency option. On Monday, Beijing implied there would be a military response if Pelosi traveled to Taiwan.
China has “serious concern over Speaker Pelosi’s potential visit to Taiwan and our firm opposition to the visit. We have been stressing that such a visit would lead to serious consequences,” Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian told reporters Monday when asked about the trip.
“We want to once again make it clear to the US side that the Chinese side is fully prepared for any eventuality and that the People’s Liberation Army of China will never sit idly by, and we will make resolute response and take strong countermeasures to uphold China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.”
China views Taiwan as a breakaway province and discourages governments from dealing with Taipei directly. Pelosi would be the highest-ranking U.S. official to visit Taiwan in 25 years.
Pelosi arrived in Singapore on Monday as part of a congressional delegation to the region after a stop in Hawaii that included a brief with U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, her office said in a statement.
“In Singapore, Malaysia, South Korea and Japan, our delegation will hold high-level meetings to discuss how we can further advance our shared interests and values, including peace and security, economic growth and trade, the COVID-19 pandemic, the climate crisis, human rights and democratic governance,” reads the statement.
Her official itinerary did not include Taiwan, however, officials in Washington and Taipei said a visit is expected, according to CNN.
As of Monday, Japan-based Reagan is in the Philippine Sea after transiting the San Bernadino Strait on Saturday following a port visit to Singapore and operating in the South China Sea. California-based Tripoli is in just south of Okinawa. Tripoli has been embarked with up to 20 F-35Bs. Marine officials told USNI News on Friday that its F-35Bs were not grounded as part of the ongoing ejection seat problems.
Specific lots of ejection seats across the Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps — including F-35s — were found to have defective components. The services are in the process of clearing the seats for service with repairs.
“Currently, Marine Corps F-35Bs are not grounded, and over 90 percent of the inspections on Marine Corps ejection seat cartridge actuating devices are now complete,” Marine Maj. Jay Hernandez told USNI News on Friday.