TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — The commander of the U.S. military in the Pacific on May 23 warned Chinese Chairman Xi Jinping (習近平) that an invasion of Taiwan would be costly to China in terms of "blood and treasure."
U.S. Indo-Pacific commander Admiral John C. Aquilino was the keynote speaker for the Annual Members Program for the National Committee on United States–China Relations. During a Q&A session, National Committee President Stephen Orlins asked Aquilino to discuss lessons from the Ukraine war for Taiwan and whether it had changed the U.S. military's calculus for the risk of conflict in the strait.
Aquilino said that there are many lessons that can be learned from Russia's "illegal and illegitimate unprovoked attack on Ukraine." The admiral argued that the world was woken up by the invasion and the people in Taiwan "certainly have a new view."
He said that it should be concerning that the invasion demonstrates that any single leader from an authoritarian nation can take such aggressive actions without the consideration of others. Among the many lessons, Aquilino said Xi should learn that, "There is no such thing as a short war."
Aquilino said that Xi must understand that if he chooses to invade Taiwan, it would be "drastically devastating to his people in the form of blood and treasure." Because the world is so interwoven that an attack on Taiwan would also drastically upset the rest of the global economy, said Aquilino.
He stressed that the bottom line must be clear that the "investment of blood and treasure" required to achieve Xi's objectives, needs to be a "very hard decision." Aquilino added Xi must learn that the global community can be quickly rallied "when they disagree with actions taken in that fashion."
The commander said that any aggressor would face global condemnation, as is the case with Russian President Vladimir Putin presently. Aquilino emphasized that Xi would not just face military retaliation, but also economic and diplomatic responses, among other measures.
Aquilino argued that Xi keeps all of these lessons in mind and concluded that such repercussions are not in anyone's interest, and therefore he has continued to focus his efforts on maintaining peace. "My efforts are 100% to prevent conflict," said the admiral.
In response to a question about whether China will invade Taiwan in 2027, Aquilino said the context of that previous statement by former chief of the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, Philip Davidson, was that Xi had ordered his forces to be prepared to invade by 2027 "should he choose the desire to execute by force" the annexation of Taiwan.
Aquilino said he refuses to speculate on when and if such an invasion would occur, but he said that he has been tasked with two missions: preventing this war from occurring and "if I fail at Mission One to be prepared to fight and win." He explained that regardless of when such a conflict breaks out, the U.S. armed forces will be "manned, trained, equipped, postured, and ready to execute both of those missions."