House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

A US Air Force plane was over Southeast Asia on Tuesday, potentially with Nancy Pelosi on board.
Flight data showed the jet tracing a circuitous route that could bring Pelosi to Taiwan.
The prospect of a visit enraged China, which claims Taiwan as its own and seeks to isolate it.

A US Air Force plane was on Tuesday tracing a path over Southeast Asia, increasingly resembling a route to Taiwan.

US officials have pointedly avoided confirming widespread reports that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is heading there on a visit.

But the Air Force plane and its route, seemingly avoiding the contested South China Sea, closely matches reported details of the trip.

A map, based n FlightRadar24 data, showing the approximate route of a US Air Force plane on August 2, 2022, seemingly towards Taiwan.

The prospect of a high-ranking US politician like Pelosi visiting Taiwan has enraged China, which claims the island as its own territory, rejects its independence, and works aggressively to isolate it from potential allies.

This map shows China’s claim to the South China Sea, which the Air Force jet’s flight path gives a wide berth, even though it is much longer than a direct route.

A map that depicts China’s claim of ownership in the South China Sea.

In deference to China’s position, the US and other Western countries carry out only unofficial diplomacy with Taiwan, and have for decades avoided sending high-ranking delegations there. Pelosi’s visit would be a big shift.

According to the tracking site FlightRadar24, an Air Force Boeing C-40C with the callsign SPAR19 took off on Tuesday from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. That was the last confirmed location for Pelosi, who was partway through a tour of Asia.

—Josh Rogin (@joshrogin) August 2, 2022

Numerous media outlets reported on Monday that Pelosi was indeed heading to Taiwan, with a Taiwanese outlet specifying an arrival time of around 10 p.m. local time, which would fit with Pelosi’s flight path.

According to FlightRadar24, SPAR19 had flown over Indonesia and turned north, towards Taiwan, as of around 8 p.m. local time. The site crashed repeatedly as the flight progressed as some 300,000 people tracked its movement.

Such a path avoids the contested South China Sea region, which China claims as its own and has heavily militarized.

The US rejects those claims and routinely sends Navy ships there, but may not have wanted to annoy China by sending Pelosi’s plane over its waters.

Washington Post columnist Josh Rogin tweeted that he had been told by sources the course was chosen to evade security threats. 

China has threatened military retaliations in response to the visit. 

Read the original article on Business Insider