TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — The admiral nominated to take the helm of U.S. Indo-Pacific Command on Tuesday (March 23) warned the U.S. Senate the threat of a Chinese invasion of Taiwan is "closer than most think."
Before a hearing of the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee, Navy Admiral John Aquilino fielded questions about the potential threat China poses to Taiwan. Unlike his predecessor, Admiral Philip Davidson, Aquilino did not give an exact timeframe for a Chinese invasion of Taiwan but stressed the danger is growing faster than many had expected.
Aquilino asserted that Beijing has made taking control over Taiwan its "No. 1 priority." He said when it comes to the Taiwan issue, "The rejuvenation of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is at stake."
He warned that the People's Liberation Army is increasing its "capability and capacity and closing that gap." He pointed out that Beijing has taken "aggressive actions earlier than we anticipated, whether it be on the Indian border or whether it be in Hong Kong or whether it be against the Uyghurs.”
When asked if he concurred with Admiral Philip Davidson's assessment that China could invade Taiwan within six years, he did not commit to an exact number but said that in his opinion, "This problem is much closer to us than most think, and we have to take this on, put those deterrence capabilities like PDI [the Pacific Deterrence Initiative] in place in the near term, and with urgency." The PDI is an Indo-Pacific Command plan to boost American defenses in the region at the cost of US$27.3 billion over the next five years.
The admiral cautioned that the CCP has "generated some capabilities in the region that are designed to keep us out." He stressed that the biggest concern in the region is the use of "military force against Taiwan."
He emphasized that a Chinese takeover of Taiwan would have two major negative repercussions for the U.S. First, it would threaten global trade, as Taiwan is situated near major shipping routes.
Second, he said it would damage U.S. credibility with Asian allies such as Japan, South Korea, and the Philippines. "The status of the United States as a partner with our allies and partners also is at stake should we have a conflict in Taiwan," warned Aquilino.