Admiral John Aquilino has warned China’s threat to invade Taiwan is “closer than most think” in a Senate armed services committee yesterday. Beijing regards Taiwan as a breakaway province, and has previously threatened to take over the island by force.
Appearing in front of US Senators on Tuesday, Adm Aquilino was asked by Tom Cotton, Republican in Arkansas, “why is it so important to Beijing that they annex Taiwan?”
The admiral replied: “They view it as their No 1 priority.
“The rejuvenation of the Chinese Communist party is at stake, very critical, as they look at the problem.”
Adm Aquilino also suggested Taiwan is a strategic location in the South China Sea, which would be of use to Beijing.
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The admiral is nominated to head the US Indo-Pacific Command, and disagreed with the outgoing Commander Adm Philip Davidson on when China could move to take over Taiwan.
Adm Davidson said earlier this month he believes China could attempt to attack and take over Taiwan as soon as six years from now.
In a stark warning, Adm Aquilino told the panel: “My opinion is that this problem is much closer to us than most think and we have to take this on.”
But the potential Indo-Pacific Commander refused to comment on Sen Cotton’s suggestion Beijing could strike as earlier as next year.
In addition, Adm Aquilino insisted the threat from China is of utmost concern, and therefore the US must implement a proposed 27bn plan to boost defences in the Indo-Pacific “in the near term and with urgency”.
He told the Senators: “The Chinese Communist party has generated some capabilities in the region that are designed to keep us out.
“The most dangerous concern is that of a military force against Taiwan.”
The US, under Presidents Joe Biden and Donald Trump, has forged closer ties with Taiwan through arms deals and military drills in the South China Sea.
Wang Yi, China’s foreign minister, warned Mr Biden earlier this month not to continue Mr Trump’s “dangerous practice” of supporting Taiwan.
He told reporters: “The Chinese government has no room for compromise.”
Mr Wang added China urges “the new US administration to fully understand the high sensitivity of the Taiwan issue” and wants Mr Biden to “completely change the previous administration’s dangerous practices of ‘crossing the line’ and ‘playing with fire’”.