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US Navy admiral makes unannounced visit to Taiwan

Rear Admiral Michael Studeman arrived in Taipei on Sunday

U.S. military plane at Songshan Airport on Sunday.

U.S. military plane at Songshan Airport on Sunday. (CNA photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — A two-star navy admiral overseeing U.S. military intelligence in the Asia-Pacific region made an unannounced visit to Taiwan on Sunday (Nov. 22), Reuters reported.

Sources speaking on condition of anonymity, including a Taiwanese official with knowledge about the trip, told Reuters the official was Rear Admiral Michael Studeman. Studeman is director of J2, which is in charge of intelligence, at the U.S. military’s Indo-Pacific Command, according to the U.S. Navy website.

Taiwan’s Ministry of National Defense declined to comment on the visit, as did the U.S. Pentagon. Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) confirmed on Sunday that a U.S. official had arrived in the country but did not provide any details, adding the visit has not been made public.

United Daily News (UDN) published photos of an unmarked private jet, which it said was a U.S. military plane, arriving at Taipei’s Songshan Airport. Data from flight-tracking website recorded a private plane flying into Songshan late Sunday afternoon from Hawaii, where Indo-Pacific Command is headquartered, according to Reuters.

MOFA said in a short statement there were frequent interactions with Washington and that “we welcome the visit of the U.S. official.” It also added, “But as this itinerary has not been made public, based on mutual trust between Taiwan and the United States, the Foreign Ministry has no further explanation or comment.”

According to Randall Schriver, a former assistant secretary of defense for Asia during the Trump administration, the Pentagon under Trump has been quietly sending one-star flag officers to Taiwan on a routine basis. He added that Washington and Taipei had close intelligence exchanges on the Chinese military threat.

The U.S. has stepped up high-level visits to Taiwan under the Donald Trump administration. In August, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar became the highest-ranking U.S. Cabinet official to visit the country since 1979.

Azar was then followed by Under Secretary of State Keith Krach, who attended a memorial service for late President Lee Teng-hui (李登輝). On Dec. 5, head of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Andrew Wheeler, is expected to lead a 10-person delegation to Taiwan for a three-day visit to talk about marine litter, air quality and children’s issues.