The American military is warning that China is probably planning to take control of Taiwan more quickly than many people had thought.
The future of the island democracy has been the largest problem between the United States and China for many years. Experts consider it the most likely cause for a military conflict between the two sides.
China has been building its military for years. It has become more aggressive with Taiwan and in arguments over ownership of the South China Sea.
China considers Taiwan a breakaway territory. A military move against Taiwan would test American support for the island. The U.S. has always promised to defend Taiwan, but has left it unclear just how that would be done.
For the Biden administration, Chinese military aggression toward Taiwan would force a choice. It could break its promise and let the Chinese take Taiwan or risk a full war with China.
The Biden administration believes China is the number one problem for the United States. It also believes the U.S. must do more and do it quickly – militarily, diplomatically and in other ways – to prevent China from replacing the United States as the most powerful nation in Asia. Taiwan is at the top of the list of possible problems.
“The risks are actually going up,” said Admiral Philip Davidson. He is the top U.S. military commander in the Asia-Pacific area. He made his comments to a group of U.S. Senators last month about a Chinese military move on Taiwan.
“The threat is manifest during this decade — in fact, in the next six years,” Davidson said. A decade is a period of ten years.
Days later, Davidson’s expected replacement, Admiral John Aquilino, told senators at his confirmation hearing: “My opinion is, this problem is much closer to us than most think.”
Biden administration officials have said they plan to deepen ties with Taiwan. China has warned against interference.
On Wednesday, Taiwan Foreign Minister Joseph Wu said the military threat against his country is increasing. He pointed to the fact that the Chinese military has been doing “combat-type” exercises close to the island.
“If we need to defend ourselves to the very last day, then we will defend ourselves to the very last day,” Wu told reporters.
Also Wednesday, the U.S. Navy said the destroyer USS John S. McCain passed through the Taiwan Strait on that day.
A U.S. Navy statement said the destroyer’s passing showed the U.S. supports a “free and open Indo-Pacific.”
“The United States military will continue to fly, sail, and operate anywhere international laws allow,” the statement also said.
Admiral Charles Richard is responsible for U.S. nuclear forces as the head of U.S. Strategic Command. He recently wrote that China may soon become a “strategic peer” of the United States. He said China’s number of nuclear weapons is expected to increase 100 percent or more in the next 10 years. The U.S. defense department agrees.
U.S. officials have noted People’s Liberation Army actions that appear to want to trouble Taiwan. Every day, Chinese airplanes fly into Taiwan’s air space, forcing its small military to answer the aggression.
For years, the U.S. and China have dealt with the problem of Taiwan as a balance. China leaves Taiwan alone and the island does not claim formal independence from China.
Larry Diamond of Stanford University’s Hoover Institution said last week that he doubts Chinese leaders are ready to destroy that balance.
“I don’t think it’s coming soon,” he said.
The Biden administration says it wants to work with China where possible, but has voiced some anger about Chinese actions toward Taiwan.
I’m Susan Shand.
The Associated Press reported this story. Susan Shand adapted it for Learning English. Mario Ritter, Jr. was the editor.
Words in This Story
manifest –adj. able to be seen, shown or visible
strategic –adj. related to a general plan that is created to reach a goal in war or politics usually over a long period of time
peer –n. someone who belongs to the same age, social or other group as someone else
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