A top Pentagon official on China policy has made a surprise visit to Taiwan for talks amid rising tensions between Washington and Beijing related to the suspected Chinese surveillance balloon shot down earlier this month by U.S. military jets, according to a published report.
The Pentagon has yet to confirm the visit by Assistant Secretary of Defense for East Asia Michael Chase, reported Friday morning by the London-based Financial Times. If true, it would be the highest-level visit by an American defense official to Taipei since President Biden took office in 2021.
The Financial Times reported that Mr. Chase landed in Taiwan late Friday, though that has not been confirmed by Washington.
That visit comes at an intensely delicate time, with the U.S. and China at odds over a range of economic, security and diplomatic issues even before the balloon incident sparked fury in both capitals. Secretary of State Antony Blinken abruptly called off a planned fence-mending trip to Beijing on Feb. 5 after the Chinese balloon was spotted flying over much of the continental U.S., while China refused to take a subsequent call from U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin after the balloon shootdown.
President Biden on Thursday mentioned he still hoped to have direct talks with Chinese President Xi Jinping on lowering tensions in the bilateral relationship, but the Chase visit, if confirmed, could complicate that effort as well.
China reacted with fury to the August visit by then-Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, to Taiwan, which Beijing considers part of its sovereign territory and which Mr. Xi has vowed to reclaim someday, staging an unprecedented series of military drills and ballistic missile tests around the island democracy.
New Republican House Speaker Kevin McCarthy is widely reported to be considering his own trip to Taiwan this year.