The head of the US Navy has warned that the American military must be prepared for the possibility of a Chinese invasion of Taiwan before 2024, as Washington grows increasingly alarmed about the threat to the island.
Admiral Mike Gilday, chief of naval operations, said the US had to consider that China could take action against Taiwan much sooner than even the more pessimistic warnings.
The debate in the US about when China might invade Taiwan has intensified since Admiral Philip Davidson, then-head of Indo-Pacific Command, told Congress last year that the Chinese military could take action against Taiwan before 2027.
Davidson’s warning was partly downplayed at the time, but officials have intensified their warnings over the past year.
“When we talk about the 2027 window, in my mind that has to be a 2022 window or potentially a 2023 window,” Gilday told the Atlantic Council on Wednesday.
“I don’t mean at all to be alarmist . . . it’s just that we can’t wish that away.” Gilday’s comments came two days after US secretary of state Antony Blinken said China was “determined to pursue reunification on a much faster timeline” after deciding that the status quo was “no longer acceptable.”
Among the reports to come out of China’s recent party congress was that Xi referred to Taiwan as an internal affair and denounced foreign interference.
Underscoring the mounting concern about Chinese military activity near Taiwan, which has increased in the wake of US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taipei in August, Joe Biden has on four occasions as president warned China that the US would intervene to defend Taiwan from an unprovoked attack.
However, as US officials sound alarms, Congress will soon vote on legislation that would fund weapons allocation for Taipei. The defence spending bill authorises $10bn over five years in what would be the first case of the US funding weapons sales to Taiwan.
Taipei has previously paid for American weapons that have been approved for sale by Washington.