Chinese threat to Taiwan 'closer than most think': top US admiral

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Washington [US], March 24 (ANI): China is quickly amassing weapons and systems to militarily overwhelm Taiwan, an action it could be "poised to take" within the next six years, the admiral chosen to be the next commander of US forces in the Pacific warned on Tuesday.

"My opinion is this problem is much closer to us than most think," Admiral John Aquilino said before the Senate Armed Services Committee, which was reviewing his nomination to lead the US military's Indo-Pacific Command, as reported by CNN.

China considers establishing full control over Taiwan to be its "number one priority," added Aquilino.

CNN further reported that the current head of the command, Admiral Philip Davidson, told a hearing earlier this month that China could be prepared to take Taiwan, the self-governed democratic island that Beijing claims as its sovereign territory, by force within the next six years.

But Aquilino said Beijing is establishing a track record of using force to achieve Communist Party goals sooner than US planners forecast.

"We've seen 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. We've seen things that I don't think we expected, and that's why I continue to talk about a sense of urgency. We ought to be prepared today," Aquilino said.

According to the news outlet, Davidson, in his Senate testimony two weeks ago, said the Chinese military has built a force intended for offensive operations.

"I cannot for the life of me understand some of the capabilities that they're putting in the field unless it is an aggressive posture... I see them developing systems, capabilities and a posture that would indicate that they're interested in aggression," he told the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Aquilino warned on Tuesday the People's Liberation Army (PLA) is sharply focused on having all it needs to bring Taiwan under Beijing's control.

"The military threat to Taiwan is increasing. The PLA continues to field a broad array of advanced weapons and systems as part of ongoing force modernization specifically intended to achieve decisive overmatch against Taiwan," the US admiral said in written testimony.

He also said that Washington's credibility as an ally to places like Japan and the Philippines is at stake if the island were to fall to Beijing when asked by Lawmakers why the US should defend Taiwan.

"It would negatively impact our standing in the region if that were to happen and it would challenge the rest of our allies and partners and the US, negatively impacting our ability to operate freely in the area," he said.

Aquilino also told the senators that a Chinese military presence on Taiwan would give Beijing sway over two thirds of global trade, which passes through the sea lanes near the island. "I do believe that sends a strong message that the entirety of government in the United States is focused on the challenge that we've identified as it applies to the western Pacific," Aquilino said.

In a development that might irk China, United States Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, has referred to Taiwan as "country", the term so far avoided by US officials.

He made the remark during a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing on earlier this month on the Biden administration's foreign policy agenda. Blinken was responding to California Republican Representative Young Kim, who called on the US to include Taiwan in the upcoming Democracy Summit.

The State Department used to have an unwritten policy to avoid using the word "country" when referring to the self-ruled island as part of the US commitment to Beijing's so-called "One China Policy", according to Sputnik.

Beijing claims full sovereignty over Taiwan, a democracy of almost 24 million people located off the southeastern coast of mainland China, despite the fact that the two sides have been governed separately for more than seven decades.

Taipei, on the other hand, has countered the Chinese aggression by increasing strategic ties with democracies including the US, which has been repeatedly opposed by Beijing.

In recent months, China has increased its military activities around Taiwan. According to China, it is responding to what it calls "collusion" between Taipei and Washington, Taiwan's main international backer and weapons supplier, according to CNN.

In November, the US and Taiwan signed a blueprint for closer economic ties in Washington. In February, Senator Rick Scott reintroduced the Taiwan Invasion Prevention Act, sponsored by Congressman Guy Reschenthaler in the US House of Representatives, to protect Taiwan from China's growing aggression. (ANI)