Amid rising tensions with China, the US is preparing evacuation plans for its citizens in Taiwan, The Messenger reported on Monday. Should a conflict break out on the island, tens of thousands of Americans could become trapped.
The planning process has been underway for at least six months, but has “heated up over the past two months or so,” a “senior US intelligence official” told the news site. The official added that a “heightened level of tension” had driven the preparations.
Another source said that Russia’s military operation in Ukraine had forced the US to consider its arrangements in Taiwan, which would likely be the flashpoint for any confrontation between the US and China.
The US evacuated most of its embassy staff from Kiev two weeks before Russian troops entered Ukraine, after warning American citizens for several months to leave the country by commercial means.
The US State Department has not warned Americans against traveling to Taiwan, and currently designates the island with the lowest of its four travel advisory levels. According to The Messenger’s sources, the drawing up of evacuation plans is being kept quiet “because it is a sensitive subject for the Taiwanese government.”
While the State Department did not comment on the report, a department official said that the secrecy was not unusual, as “even talking about an [evacuation plan] starts people thinking something may be going on even if it is just prudent planning.”
As of 2019, more than 80,000 Americans are living in Taiwan. Geographical factors would make evacuating these people difficult, one source said, explaining that many points on the island are connected by single routes passing through tunnels, and that evacuation vessels would have to weave their way through military fleets steaming toward Taiwan.
US President Joe Biden’s administration has adopted an increasingly hostile stance toward Beijing since 2021, repeatedly labeling China as America’s top competitor while expanding US military activity in the region. In addition to signing new military and economic agreements with Asian allies, the president has sent US warships through the Taiwan Strait on a near-monthly basis since taking office. China considers these so-called “freedom of navigation” exercises to be provocations, and typically responds with military drills of its own.
Biden has also said on four separate occasions that he would respond with military force if Beijing attempted to forcibly reunify Taiwan with the Chinese mainland. Beijing vehemently condemned these statements as violations of the US’ long-standing policy of recognizing, but not endorsing, its sovereignty over the island.
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