A senior US general has warned that America could be at war with China within the next two years but the Pentagon has played down his remarks.
In a memo dated February 1 but obtained by US media outlets ahead of its release, Air Force General Mike Minihan, who heads the Air Mobility Command, wrote: “I hope I am wrong. My gut tells me we will fight in 2025."
Gen Minihan wrote that next year's US presidential election and Taiwan's own poll would provide Chinese President Xi Jinping with a “distracted America”.
“Xi's team, reason and opportunity are all aligned for 2025,” Gen Minihan wrote. He said aircrews should "aim for the head" as they fire weapons into a "7-metre target".
A Pentagon official told Reuters that Gen Minihan's comments were “not representative of the department's view on China”.
In October, the Chief of Naval Operations, Admiral Michael Gilday, suggested the US military should immediately be prepared for a potential conflict with China over Taiwan.
US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin previously said he does not foresee an “imminent invasion” from China against Taiwan.
Tensions between the US and China escalated after former House speaker Nancy Pelosi's trip to Taiwan last year, which Beijing condemned as a breach of the “One China” principle.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken is expected to visit China this year after US President Joe Biden and Mr Xi met at the G20 summit in November.
Under the “One China” policy, the US does not hold diplomatic relations with the island and recognises Beijing as the seat of Chinese government. Washington does, however, send military equipment to the island.
The White House has maintained that Ms Pelosi's visit to the island did not undermine One China.
Other members of Congress have made the same trip since Ms Pelosi's visit.
And the Pentagon is preparing for Kevin McCarthy, the newly elected Speaker of the House of Representatives, to visit Taiwan, Punchbowl News reported.