Beijing could declare a no-fly zone to dissuade the US House Speaker from visiting Taipei

China may use warplanes and missile drills in order to prevent Speaker of the US House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi from visiting Taiwan, multiple reports have said. The California Democrat has neither confirmed nor denied plans to go to the island next month after media reports.

Beijing could declare a no-fly zone or restrict navigation by conducting military exercises near the Taiwan Strait, forcing Pelosi’s aircraft “to make a detour,” the South China Morning Post reported on Wednesday, citing military experts.

CNN similarly quoted a White House official on Friday as voicing concern that China may announce a no-fly zone in an attempt to derail Pelosi’s possible trip. The New York Times quoted US officials on Monday as saying that China could send warplanes to “escort” Pelosi’s aircraft and prevent it from landing.

Pelosi would be the first sitting US House of Representatives speaker to visit the island since 1997. China claims Taiwan, which has been ruled by a separate government since the late 1940s, as its territory and opposes any forms of diplomatic recognition of the Taipei authorities.

Last week Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said that it would have a “grave impact” on Chinese-American ties, violating the One-China policy and existing agreements between Washington and Beijing.

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Taiwan holds drills aimed at China

On Tuesday, Tan Kefei, a spokesman for China’s Defense Ministry, warned that Beijing will “take strong measures to thwart any external interferences” in Taiwan. Chinese state-run newspaper Global Times reported that the Chinese military could launch missile drills, targeting “any possible US aircraft carriers and other large military vessels that may be involved in Pelosi’s visit.”

During his regular press briefing on Thursday, US State Department spokesman Ned Price said Pelosi’s possible trip remained “a hypothetical.”

“I’m not going to be offering any advice from this podium,” he said, explaining whether the White House was against Pelosi traveling to Taiwan.

Teams of former and sitting US officials traveled to Taiwan in March and April, drawing the ire of Beijing. Taipei accused China of ramping up flybys by military jets near the island in recent months, while Beijing criticized Taiwan authorities and the US for striking deals to supply the island with weapons.