US Navy admiral makes unannounced visit to Taiwan | THE DAILY TRIBUNE | KINGDOM OF BAHRAIN

US Navy admiral makes unannounced visit to Taiwan

Reuters | Taipei

The Daily Tribune – www.newsofbahrain.com

A two-star Navy admiral overseeing US military intelligence in the Asia-Pacific region has made an unannounced visit to Taiwan; two sources told Reuters on Sunday, in a high-level trip that could vex China.

The sources, which include a Taiwanese official familiar with the situation, said the official was Rear Admiral Michael Studeman. The sources spoke on condition of anonymity.

According to the Navy’s website, Studeman is director of the J2, which oversees intelligence, at the US military’s Indo-Pacific Command.

The Pentagon declined comment, as did Taiwan’s Defence Ministry. Taiwan’s foreign ministry confirmed on Sunday that a US official had arrived in Taiwan but declined to provide details, saying the trip had not been made public.

China, which claims democratically-run Taiwan as its own territory, reacted with fury when US Health Secretary Alex Azar came to Taipei in August, followed by US Undersecretary of State Keith Krach in September, sending fighter jets near the island each time.

The Trump administration has ramped up support for Taiwan, including with new arms sales, alarming China.

It was not immediately clear whether Studeman’s visit would be seen as an escalation by Beijing. Still, he could be one of the most high-ranking US military officers known to have visited Taipei in recent years.

Douglas Paal, a former head of the US representative office in Taiwan who is now with the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, said: “If it is Indopacom J2 Studeman, I know of no precedent for such a visit.”

But Randall Schriver, a former assistant secretary of defense for Asia during the Trump administration, said Trump’s Pentagon had been quietly sending one-star flag officers to Taiwan on a routine basis.

He noted that the United States and Taiwan had close intelligence exchanges on the threat from China’s military.

Bonnie Glaser, a regional security expert at Washington’s Center for Strategic and International Studies think tank, said it would not be unprecedented for a US flag officer to visit Taipei.