By: Micaela Burrow, Daily Caller News Foundation
The U.S. should be ready to deal with any security event in the Indo-Pacific today, the U.S. Navy admiral responsible for the Indo-Pacific region told Congress on Tuesday, discarding his predecessor’s assessment in 2021 that Chinese President Xi Jinping would launch an invasion of Taiwan by 2027.
U.S. Indo-Pacific Command (INDOPACOM) Commander Adm. John Aquilino told the House Armed Services Committee the previous leader’s comments derived from Xi’s pledge to develop a combat-ready military by 2027, but that the timeline was not set in stone. Xi’s strategy of harnessing every part of its military, economy and the information space presents a threat to security and stability in the region today, and for the U.S. to compete, it should do the same, Aquilino and other officials advised.
“For me it doesn’t matter what the timeline is. The secretary [of defense] has given me this mission today, so I’m responsible to prevent this conflict today, and if deterrence were to fail to be able to fight and win,” Aquilino said.
“So the timeline — everybody will have an opinion on when it is. I think everybody’s guessing,” Aquilino said.
His comments followed a string of competing estimates from the Department of Defense (DOD) and other administration officials regarding when, or if, China will decide to move militarily against Taiwan. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said earlier this year he does not see an “imminent” invasion, while Secretary of State Antony Blinken warned in 2022 that China could be pursuing a “much faster timeline” of reunification, without specifying a date.
When asked whether the threat of an invasion today exceeded that of past years, Aquilino said he believed “the trends are moving in the wrong direction.”
“There’s no doubt about that,” he said, adding that “the United States military is ready today for any contingency.”
“The PRC has taken a whole of government approach” to preparing for combat, Aquilino said, using the acronym for China’s formal name, the People’s Republic of China.
The Biden administration’s strategy in countering Chinese aggression hinges on deterrence, or convincing Beijing that a move on Taiwan would exact more in blood and treasure that it would gain by formally bringing the self-governing island under control of the Chinese Communist Party.
Jedidiah Royal, principal deputy assistant secretary for Indo-Pacific security affairs, echoed Aquilino’s remarks. “President Xi has been very assertive in conducting a coercion campaign against Taiwan. We believe that he does intend to build a capable force that could stand to threaten Taiwan over time.”
He would not say what the administration’s goals would be if China did invade.
For the U.S. to execute effective deterrence, “the entire whole of government approaching it in the same way would be good,” Aquilino said.
“Some of those things have already occurred,” he said. For example, the CHIPS act and other export restrictions are aimed at improving the U.S. ability to supply critical technologies domestically and thwart Beijing’s espionage efforts.
“We just need to compete across the entire spectrum understanding that our security challenger will,” said Aquilino.