According to a source cited by the Financial Times, Michael Chase, the deputy assistant secretary of defense and the senior Pentagon officer for China, has landed in Taiwan for a visit that might heighten tensions between Beijing and Washington.
Pentagon and Taiwan’s Ministry of Defense both declined to comment.
According to a Pentagon official, “We don’t have a comment on specific operations, engagements, or training, but I would underline that our support for Taiwan and our defense relationship with it remain aligned against the current threat posed by the People’s Republic of China.”
Speaking earlier, Taiwan Defense Minister Chiu Kuo-cheng said he was “not very certain” about a report that the trip would take place.
Chiu, asked whether Chase would be coming, said “those who are friendly to us” are very welcome.
“But so far it is not very certain,” he told reporters on the sidelines of a parliament session.
“I won’t explain the details,” he said. “I won’t explain until I get formal notification.”
Chase would be the most senior U.S. defense official to visit the island since 2019.
China, which views Taiwan as its own territory, has repeatedly demanded that foreign officials not visit the democratically governed island.
China and the United States are involved in a bitter dispute over the U.S. military’s shooting down of what it called a Chinese spy balloon off the coast of South Carolina this month. China says the balloon was for monitoring weather.
Speaking in Beijing, Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin reiterated that the government was firmly opposed to official interactions and military ties between the United States and Taiwan.
China staged war games near Taiwan last August to express its anger at a Taipei visit by then-U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
Although the United States, like most countries, has no formal diplomatic ties with Taiwan, it is the island’s most important arms supplier and the two have a close security relationship, with U.S. defence officials on occasion visiting.
In 2020, a two-star Navy admiral overseeing U.S. military intelligence in the Asia-Pacific region made an unannounced visit to Taiwan.