US should be ready for China to move on Taiwan as soon as this year, admiral says

Admiral Michael Gilday's warning follows similar statement from US Secretary of State Antony Blinken

Taiwanese tanks fire at targets during a live-fire exercise in Penghu, Taiwan. EPA
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The head of the US Navy has said that China could attempt to reunify with Taiwan as soon as this year, in the latest warning from Washington over Beijing's plans for the self-ruled island.

Chinese President Xi Jinping has set a timeline for Beijing to take Taiwan by 2027 — by force, if necessary — but Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Michael Gilday suggested the US military needs to be ready for the possibility of it happening much sooner.

“It's not just what President Xi says, it's how the Chinese behave and what they do,” Admiral Gilday told the Atlantic Council on Wednesday.

“What we've seen over the past 20 years is that they have delivered on every promise they've made earlier than they said they were going to deliver on it … So when we talk about the 2027 window, in my mind, that has to be a 2022 window or potentially a 2023 window.”

The admiral's comments come after US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken on Monday said that Beijing wants to take control of Taiwan “on a much faster timeline” than previously considered and added that “a very different China” had emerged under Mr Xi.

Mr Blinken accused the Chinese president of changing the status quo towards Taiwan and that a decades-long policy peacefully managed by both Democratic and Republican administrations was “up until recently, incredibly successful”.

He also said that any war over Taiwan would have an “enormous” impact on global trade.

President Joe Biden last month said the US would defend Taiwan if it were attacked, drawing sharp condemnation from China.

Mr Xi is on the cusp of securing a third five-year term at the helm of the world's most populous nation, delivering a major Communist Party Congress speech on Sunday in which he restated his vow to one day “reunify”, or forcefully take, Taiwan.

China's Communist Party has never controlled Taiwan but claims the territory as its own.

While Taiwan is not a treaty ally of the US, Congress is bound by law to sell Taipei defensive weapons and there is bipartisan support for protecting the island.

Updated: October 20, 2022, 3:21 PM