US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi just flew on one of the world’s most tracked flights in history.
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US Air Force jet flies from Kuala Lumpur to Taipei
A US Air Force Boeing C-40C just completed a flight from Sultan Abdul Aziz Shah Airport (SZB) near Kuala Lumpur to Songshan Airport (TSA) near Taipei with the callsign SPAR19. The Boeing C-40C is the military version of the Boeing 737, and this particular plane is 11 years old, having been delivered to the government in December 2010.
While the flight between Kuala Lumpur and Taipei has a direct air distance of just over 2,000 miles and would ordinarily take around four hours, this flight took nearly seven hours. That’s because the flight took a very circuitous routing, intended to stay as far away from mainland China as possible. The plane traveled over Indonesia and to the east of the Philippines, before approaching Taiwan from the southeast.
That’s because China has made quite some veiled threats about a potential visit, with Chinese Ministry of Defense spokesperson Tan Kefei saying:
“If Speaker Pelosi visits Taiwan, the move will seriously violate the one-China principle and the provisions in the three China-U.S. joint communiques, severely endanger China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.”
Prior to the plane landing, officials hadn’t confirmed that Pelosi was on the plane, but reading between the lines, it was pretty obvious. This flight was so popular to track that Flightradar24 was unable to handle the amount of traffic to its site, as there was interest from hundreds of thousands of people at any given point.
You can watch a video of the plane arriving in Taipei below.
Why is Nancy Pelosi visiting Taiwan?
House Speaker Pelosi and several other politicians are currently on a tour of Asia. This trip is officially expected to include Singapore, Malaysia, South Korea, and Japan, where high-level meetings are intended to discuss “shared interests,” including the pandemic, climate change, and trade.
However, what’s getting the most attention about this trip is Pelosi’s plans to visit Taiwan, given the objections from mainland China. The White House has been opposed to Pelosi visiting Taiwan, out of fears that it would further escalate tensions between Washington and Beijing. While Pelosi removed Taiwan from her official schedule, clearly this was still planned all along.
This is the first time in 25 years that a US House Speaker, who is second in line of presidential succession (after the vice president), has visited Taiwan.
Of course the controversy here comes down to Taiwan’s sovereignty. Beijing considers Taiwan to be ruled by the People’s Republic of China, while Taiwan claims to be independent, with democratic elections. Officials in Beijing view this visit as a violation of the one-China principle.
Nancy Pelosi is currently visiting Taiwan. The US Air Force jet carrying her took quite a circuitous touring, as expected, and the plane landed in Taipei late at night. Rather than the typical flight time of four hours, this flight took closer to seven hours.
This was the world’s most tracked flight in a long time,, and for good reason. This has major political implications, and will no doubt anger officials in Beijing.