China ‘unlikely’ to try taking Taiwan in next two years: US general

Chinese PLA Navy soldiers on a naval vessel in the South China Sea. Photo: Twitter. Sketched by the Pan Pacific Agency.

TOKYO, Jun 24, 2021, Kyodo. China is unlikely to attempt a military takeover of Taiwan within the next one to two years, according to General Mark Milley, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff. “I don’t see it happening right out of the blue, there’s no reason for it,” Milley told a congressional hearing, adding that an invasion aiming to seize an island as big as Taiwan, with its level of defence capability, would be “extraordinarily complicated and costly,” South China Morning Post reported.

Milley last week told Congress that Beijing had neither the capability nor intent to seize the self-ruled island in the immediate future. His message was in contrast with earlier warnings by US admirals who portrayed the threat as imminent.

Former Indo-Pacific Command chief Admiral Philip Davidson said in March that China could try to invade Taiwan “in the next six years”. His successor Admiral John Aquilino warned the problem was “much closer to us than most think”, without specifying when he expected the Chinese military to become capable of invading the island.

Speaking to the House of Representatives Armed Services Committee, Milley said on Wednesday the admirals had indicated in their comments that China was accelerating its military capability toward being ready to invade and seize Taiwan around 2027, six years from now, and that he did not “dismiss that at all”.

“My assessment is an operational assessment. Do they have the intent to attack or seize in the near-term, defined as the next year or two? My assessment and based on what I’ve seen right now is ‘no’,” he said, adding the analysis “can always change”.

At the Senate Appropriations Committee on June 17, Milley said, in terms of capability, China had “a way to go to develop the actual, no-kidding capability to conduct military operations to seize through military means the entire island of Taiwan, if they wanted to do that”.

“I think that there is little intent right now or motivation to do it militarily … and they know that. So I think right now the probability is probably low in the immediate near-term future,” he said, while emphasising it is “a core national interest of China” to unite Taiwan.

On the same day, Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin told the same Senate committee it was clear that annexing Taiwan was China’s goal and that the US remained committed to helping the island defend itself, such as through arms sales.

Beijing regards Taiwan as a renegade province awaiting reunification, by force if necessary. The issue is seen as a potential military flashpoint that could draw the United States into conflict with China.

Share it

Exclusive: Beyond the Covid-19 world's coverage