TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — A Chinese state media commentator on Thursday (April 7) called for a flight ban to prevent a planned trip to Taiwan by U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi before the visit was canceled due to her contracting COVID.
Pelosi had reportedly been scheduled to visit Taiwan on Sunday (April 10). However, on Thursday evening she was confirmed to have contracted COVID-19 and her travel plans were canceled.
Earlier that day, when the trip was still due to go ahead, an article appeared in the Global Times calling for unprecedented measures to be taken to stop the visit going ahead.
Former editor-in-chief of the Global Times Hu Xijin (胡錫進) said if Pelosi did intend to visit Taiwan, Beijing “should take unprecedented action to make Pelosi's visit impossible to carry out properly.” Hu proposed dispatching People’s Liberation Army (PLA) air force units to intercept Pelosi’s plane and prevent it from touching down in Taiwan.
“First, it could be announced that the airspace over Taiwan is closed on April 10th and a flight ban imposed,” he wrote. “The PLA could deploy a large number of warplanes to fly around the island to ensure that the ban is implemented.”
If Taiwan’s air force were to defend the sovereignty of its airspace and engage the PLA fighters, Hu suggested they return fire. “If Taiwan's forces open fire on our warplanes, the PLA should shoot down Taiwan's aircraft or carry out a destructive strike on Taiwan's force bases from which the missiles are launched,” he added.
Hu's recommendations for a fly zone were not echoed by Chinese officials, who nonetheless responded sternly to news of Pelosi's visit.
China’s Taiwan Affairs Office Spokesperson Ma Xiaoguang (馬曉光) said Taiwan's current administration "relies on the U.S. to seek independence" and some people in the U.S. government are constantly undermining the "one China" principle and the three U.S.-Sino joint communiques. He also accused the U.S. of playing the "Taiwan card" in order to control China and "increasing Taiwan-U.S. collusion" to engage in Taiwanese separatist activities, further exacerbating tension and turmoil in the Taiwan Strait.
Hu, who is known for his bombastic off-the-cuff rhetoric, stepped down from his post as head of the Global Times in December. Analyst Bill Bishop said Hu was likely removed for his “extreme warmongering over Taiwan.”