TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Admiral Philip Davidson, commander of the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, on Tuesday (March 9) said China could take military action against Taiwan within the next six years.
Before a hearing of the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee held to review the Defense Authorization Request for 2022 and future defense programs, Davidson warned that China's highly aggressive behavior over the past year appears to show it is accelerating its timeline to "supplant the United States." He warned that China's substantially enhanced military capabilities coupled with recent provocative actions in the Taiwan Strait point to a plan to use force against Taiwan within the decade.
Dan Sullivan (R-AK) noted that over the past year, under the leadership of Chairman Xi Jinping (習近平), China has exhibited aggressive behavior, evidenced by non-cooperation during the coronavirus outbreak, the India-China border conflict, cyberattacks against India, the trade embargo on Australia, the crushing of dissent in Hong Kong, and "very aggressive military actions in the Taiwan Strait, South China Sea, [and] Japan's EEZ." He then asked Davidson what impact this has on a timeline for potential conflict in the Taiwan Strait.
Davidson said there are concerns of such a conflict occurring "in this decade," not only because of the ships, aircraft, and rockets that the PLA is fielding but "the way they are advancing those capabilities as well." He said these concerns have been compounded by all the recent Chinese actions cited by Sullivan.
He said he is "worried that they are accelerating their ambitions to supplant the United States in our leadership role in the international rules-based international order." Davidson added that Chinese leaders have set a goal of surpassing the U.S. by 2050 and that he is worried that "they will move that target closer."
Davidson stressed that Taiwan is "clearly one of their ambitions" before 2050. The admiral warned that he believes a military move against Taiwan could take place within the decade: "in fact, within the next six years."
Senator Rick Scott (R-FL) asked whether Davidson agreed that "We've got to prevent communist China from controlling Taiwan. It's a strategic necessity for the United States, and a loss would devastate our ability and the ability of Japan to counter Chinese aggression." Davidson said that as the Indo-Pacific commander, he has an obligation to support the Taiwan Relations Act and that from a geostrategic point of view, it is "critically important to the United States' global status."
Scott then said he had introduced the Taiwan Invasion Prevention act to "end the strategic ambiguity about Taiwan" and state "clearly that the United States is not going to allow communist China to invade Taiwan." Davidson responded that 40 years of strategic ambiguity has helped keep Taiwan in "its current status," but he indicated that he was open-minded to reassessing the policy: "These things should be reconsidered routinely. I'd look forward to the conversation."
When Scott asked Davidson if the U.S. would be able to defend Taiwan if China invaded, Davidson said that it will require continued support by the U.S. and the "key to that is persistent and consistent arms sales to Taiwan."