WORLD NEWS

US Military Cites Rising Risk Of Chinese Move Against Taiwan

Apr 7, 2021, 6:31 AM
FILE PHOTO (Photo by Feng Li/Getty Images)...
FILE PHOTO (Photo by Feng Li/Getty Images)
(Photo by Feng Li/Getty Images)

WASHINGTON (AP) — The American military is warning that China is probably accelerating its timetable for capturing control of Taiwan, the island democracy that has been the chief source of tension between Washington and Beijing for decades and is widely seen as the most likely trigger for a potentially catastrophic U.S.-China war.

The worry about Taiwan comes as China wields new strength from years of military buildup. It has become more aggressive with Taiwan and more assertive in sovereignty disputes in the South China Sea. Beijing also has become more confrontational with Washington; senior Chinese officials traded sharp and unusually public barbs with Secretary of State Antony Blinken in talks in Alaska last month.

A military move against Taiwan, however, would be a test of U.S. support for the island that Beijing views as a breakaway province. For the Biden administration, it could present the choice of abandoning a friendly, democratic entity or risking what could become an all-out war over a cause that is not on the radar of most Americans. The United States has long pledged to help Taiwan defend itself, but it has deliberately left unclear how far it would go in response to a Chinese attack.

This accumulation of concerns meshes with the administration’s view that China is a frontline challenge for the United States and that more must be done soon — militarily, diplomatically and by other means — to deter Beijing as it seeks to supplant the United States as the predominant power in Asia. Some American military leaders see Taiwan as potentially the most immediate flashpoint.

“We have indications that the risks are actually going up,” Adm. Philip Davidson, the most senior U.S. military commander in the Asia-Pacific region, told a Senate panel last month, referring to a Chinese military move on Taiwan.

“The threat is manifest during this decade — in fact, in the next six years,” Davidson said.

Days later, Davidson’s expected successor, Adm. John Aquilino, declined to back up the six-year timeframe but told senators at his confirmation hearing: “My opinion is, this problem is much closer to us than most think.”

Biden administration officials have spoken less pointedly but stress the intention to deepen ties with Taiwan, eliciting warnings from Beijing against outsider interference in what it considers a domestic matter.

On Wednesday, Taiwanese Foreign Minister Joseph Wu said the military threat against his country is increasing, and while he said it was not yet “particularly alarming,” the Chinese military in the last couple of years has been conducting what he called “real combat-type” exercises closer to the island.

“We are willing to defend ourselves, that’s without any question,” Wu told reporters. “We will fight a war if we need to fight a war, and if we need to defend ourselves to the very last day, then we will defend ourselves to the very last day.“

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin calls China the “pacing threat” for the United States, and the military services are adjusting accordingly. The Marine Corps, for example, is reshaping itself with China and Russia in mind after two decades of ground-focused combat against extremists in the Middle East.

Hardly an aspect of China’s military modernization has failed to rile the U.S. military. Adm. Charles Richard, who as head of U.S. Strategic Command is responsible for U.S. nuclear forces, wrote in a recent essay that China is on track to be a “strategic peer” of the United States. He said China’s nuclear weapons stockpile is expected to double “if not triple or quadruple” in the next 10 years, although that goes beyond the Pentagon’s official view that the stockpile will “at least double” in that period.

Taiwan, however, is seen as the most pressing problem.

U.S. officials have noted People’s Liberation Army actions that seem designed to rattle Taiwan. For example, Chinese aerial incursions, including flying around the island, are a near-daily occurrence, serving to advertise the threat, wear down Taiwanese pilots and aircraft and learn more about Taiwan’s capabilities.

Chinese officials have scoffed at Davidson’s Taiwan comments. A Ministry of Defense spokesman, Col. Ren Guoqiang, urged Washington to “abandon zero-peace thinking” and do more to build mutual trust and stability. He said that “attempts by outside forces to use Taiwan to seek to restrain China, or the use by Taiwan independence forces to use military means to achieve independence, are all dead ends.”

The implications of a Chinese military move against Taiwan and its 23 million people are so profound and potentially grave that Beijing and Washington have long managed a fragile middle ground — Taiwanese political autonomy that precludes control by Beijing but stops short of formal independence.

Predictions of when China might decide to try to compel Taiwan to reunite with the mainland have long varied, and there is no uniform view in the United States. Larry Diamond, a senior fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution, said last week he doubts Chinese leaders are ready to force the issue.

“I don’t think it’s coming soon,” he said.

The Trump administration made a series of moves to demonstrate a stronger commitment to Taiwan, including sending a Cabinet member to Taipei last year, making him the highest-level U.S. official to visit the island since formal diplomatic relations were severed in 1979 in deference to China. The Biden administration says it wants to cooperate with China where possible but has voiced its objections to a wide range of Chinese actions.

Last week, the U.S. ambassador to the Pacific island nation of Palau, John Hennessey-Niland, became the first serving U.S. ambassador to visit Taiwan since Washington cut ties with Taipei in favor of Beijing.

China is a frequent target of criticism in Congress. Concerns about countering its growing military might are reflected in passage of the Pacific Deterrence Initiative, funded at $2.2 billion for 2021. Davidson wants it to support, among other initiatives, establishing a better air defense system to protect the U.S. territory of Guam from Chinese missiles and preserving U.S. military dominance in the region.

Rep. Adam Smith, a Washington Democrat and chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, is skeptical of the military’s fixation on dominance.

“Given the way the world works now, having one country be dominant is just hopelessly unrealistic,” he said in a recent online forum sponsored by Meridian, a nonpartisan diplomacy center. He said the U.S. military can maintain sufficient strength, in partnership with allies, to send the message: “China, don’t invade Taiwan because the price you’re going to pay for that isn’t worth it.”

___

Associated Press writer Ken Moritsugu in Beijing, AP writer Huizhong Wu in Taipei, Taiwan, and AP Diplomatic Writer Matthew Lee in Washington contributed to this report.

KSL 5 TV Live

Top Stories

World News

An aerial view of destroyed buildings on Oct. 3, 2022, in Izium, Ukraine. Izium is still without el...
Adam Schreck and Vasilisa Stepanenko, Associated Press

Russian losses evident in key liberated Ukrainian city

The bodies of Russian soldiers are lying in the streets of a key city in eastern Ukraine following their comrades' retreat that has marked the latest defeat for Moscow.
2 months ago
FILE: North Koraen Leader Kim Jong Un (Photo by Korea Summit Press Pool/Getty Images)...
Yoonjung Seo, Emiko Jozuka, Brad Lendon and Simone McCarthy, CNN

North Korea launches missile over Japan, sending residents to shelter

Japan urged residents to take shelter early Tuesday morning after North Korea fired at least one ballistic missile over the north of the country.
2 months ago
Brittney Griner #42 of the Phoenix Mercury during the first half in Game Four of the 2021 WNBA semi...
VLADIMIR ISACHENKOV, Associated Press

Russian court sets Brittney Griner appeal date for Oct. 25

A Russian court has set a date for American basketball star Brittney Griner’s appeal against her nine-year prison sentence for drug possession.
2 months ago
FILE: Ukrainian tank crew trains with infantry near Dnipropetrovsk Oblast, Ukraine. (Photo by John ...
Jon Gambrell, Associated Press

Ukrainian troops claim gains in Russia-annexed region

Ukrainian troops pushed forward with their offensive that has embarrassed Moscow, with Kyiv officials and foreign observers hinting at new gains in the southern strategic region of Kherson.
2 months ago
Arema football club supporters light candles as they pray for the victims on October 02, 2022 in Ma...
Masrur Jamaluddin, Heather Chen, Raja Razek, Jake Kwon and Kareem El Damanhoury, CNN

At least 130 killed in Indonesia soccer stadium stampede

Arema football club supporters light candles as they pray for the victims on October 02, 2022 in Malang, Indonesia. A stampede for the exits after tear gas was released has resulted in at least 170, media reports said, with many still injured in hospitals.
2 months ago
The crowd gathering at Washington Square to march to the Utah Capitol....
Brittany Tait

Crowd marched to Utah State Capitol in solidary with Iran

A large crowd marched from Washington Square to the steps of the Utah State Capitol on Saturday to show solidarity for those suffering in Iran.
2 months ago

Sponsored Articles

Hand turning a thermostat knob to increase savings by decreasing energy consumption. Composite imag...
Lighting Design

5 Lighting Tips to Save Energy and Money in Your Home

Advances in lighting technology make it easier to use smart features to cut costs. Read for tips to save energy by using different lighting strategies in your home.
Portrait of smiling practitioner with multi-ethnic senior people...
Summit Vista

How retirement communities help with healthy aging

There are many benefits that retirement communities contribute to healthy aging. Learn more about how it can enhance your life, or the life of your loved ones.
Happy diverse college or university students are having fun on their graduation day...
BYU MBA at the Marriott School of Business

How to choose what MBA program is right for you: Ask these questions before you apply!

Wondering what MBA program is right for you? Take this quiz before you apply to see if it will help you meet your goals.
Cloud storage technology with 3d rendering drawer with files in cloud...
PC Laptops

How backing up your computer can help you relieve stress

Don't wait for something bad to happen before backing up your computer. Learn how to protect your data before disaster strikes.
young woman with stickers on laptop computer...
Les Olson

7 ways print marketing materials can boost your business

Custom print marketing materials are a great way to leave an impression on clients or customers. Read for a few ideas to spread the word about your product or company.
young woman throwing clothes to organize a walk in closet...
Lighting Design

How to organize your walk-in closet | 7 easy tips to streamline your storage today

Read our tips to learn how to organize your walk-in closet for more storage space. These seven easy tips can help you get the most out of your space.
US Military Cites Rising Risk Of Chinese Move Against Taiwan