U.S. Navy admiral visits Taiwan: sources

A U.S. navy admiral has made an unannounced visit to Taiwan, a high-level trip that could stir things up with China.

Taiwan is a democratic, self-ruled island, But Beijing claims it as its own territory.

Two sources told Reuters that the officer was Rear Admiral Michael Studeman - a two-star officer who oversees military intelligence in the Asia-Pacific region.

The U.S. is Taiwan's biggest international backer, although it has no formal diplomatic ties with the island.

Support has only increased under the presidency of Donald Trump, including a boost in arms sales.

But this latest visit could spark a furious response from China.

In August, Beijing scrambled fighter jets near the island when U.S. Health Secretary Alex Azar visited the capital city Taipei.

And it repeated the maneuver for a high-level U.S. state department visit a month later.

It's still not clear whether Admiral Studeman's visit will be seen as an escalation by Beijing.

But he could be one of the highest-ranking U.S. military officers known to have visited Taipei in recent years.

One analyst said that, if confirmed, he knew of "no precedent for such a visit."

But a former defense official told Reuters that Trump's Pentagon has quietly been sending one-star officers to Taiwan on a routine basis.

ENDS

Video Transcript

- A US Navy Admiral has made an unannounced visit to Taiwan. A high-level trip that could stir things up with China. Taiwan is a Democratic, self-ruled island, but Beijing claims it as its own territory. Two sources told Reuters that the officer was Rear Admiral Michael Studeman, a two-star officer who oversees military intelligence in the Asia-Pacific region.

The US is Taiwan's biggest international backer. Although it has no formal diplomatic ties with the island, support has only increased under the presidency of Donald Trump, including a boost in arms sales. But, this latest visit could spark a furious response from China. In August, Beijing scrambled fighter jets near the island when US Health Secretary Alex Azar visited the capital city, Taipei, and it repeated the maneuver for a high-level US State Department visit a month later.

It's still not clear whether Admiral Studeman's visit will be seen as an escalation by Beijing. But he could be one of the highest-ranking US military officers known to have visited Taiwan in recent years. One analyst said that, if confirmed, he knew of "no precedent for such a visit." But a former defense official told Reuters that Trump's Pentagon has quietly been sending one-star officers to Taiwan on a routine basis.