China could attempt to take control of Taiwan by the end of the decade, the admiral leading U.S. Indo-Pacific Command said today.
Testifying in front of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Adm. Phil Davidson said China’s aggression in the region leads him to believe its goal of seizing Taiwan is a more imminent issue.
“I think our concerns are manifest here during this decade, not only on the development – the numbers of you know, ships, aircraft, rockets, etc. that they’ve put in the field – but the way they’re advancing those capabilities as well in combination with everything that you just cited: Hong Kong . . . and Tibet, and a line of actual control in the South China Sea and the East China Sea,” Davidson told the panel of lawmakers.
“I worry that they’re accelerating their ambitions to supplant the United States and our leadership role in the rules-based international order, which they’ve long said that they want to do that by 2050. I’m worried about them moving that target closer,” he continued. “Taiwan is clearly one of their ambitions before then. And I think the threat is manifest during this decade, in fact in the next six years.”
With the hearing largely focused on the threat from China and how the U.S. military can counter China in the region, several lawmakers questioned Davidson about Taiwan.
Davidson told the committee that while the United States’ “strategic ambiguity” policy toward Taiwan has likely helped the island nation remain independent from mainland China, policies like it ought to go through a reassessment.
“I would submit that we’ve got more than 40 years of the strategic ambiguity has helped keep Taiwan in its current status,” he said. “But you know, these things should be reconsidered routinely. I’d look forward to the conversation.”
China earlier this year expressed its objections to talks between Taiwan and the United States, USNI News previously reported. At the time, the State Department and Taiwan were going to partake in virtual discussions, which China’s Ministry of National Defense said breached the United States’ long-established one-China policy.
The combatant commander argued for “consistent and persistent arms sales” as a way for the U.S. to help Taiwan bolster its defense capability and said the U.S. could also assist Taipei in “professional development.”
“I think there’s an opportunity to help in professional development when it comes to Taiwan,” Davidson said in response to a question from Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.). “We think that they have some specific issues that could help provide for their defense – you know, better reserve corps for example, better response.”
Davidson also noted that INDOPACOM helps Taiwan each year with its annual Han Kuang military drill.
“We help provide some observers to help understand how Taiwan thinks about their defense, what their exercises exercise, what that exercise contribution is to the advancement in their doctrine within Taiwan, and then to deepen our relationships as well,” Davidson told the committee.
Davidson’s testimony comes after he sent Congress INDOPACOM’s investment priorities for Fiscal Year 2022 and FY 2023 through FY 2027. The admiral is seeking $4.68 billion in FY 2022 for the Pacific Deterrence Initiative, which Congress created last year to counter China in the region. The document projects INDOPACOM needing $22.69 billion from FY 2023 through FY 2027 to accomplish the initiative’s goals.
Davidson has repeatedly said that his top priority is getting a homeland missile defense system to protect Guam from Chinese missiles. Last week, in advocating for the system, Davidson said building an Aegis Ashore facility on Guam would relieve three guided-missile destroyers from missile defense work so they could be available for Navy tasking.