Doubts cast China will be ready to invade Taiwan by 2027

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Voice of America
18 Apr 2024, 08:35 GMT+10

Doubts cast China will be ready to invade Taiwan by 2027

Voice of America
18 Apr 2024, 08:35 GMT+10

washington – A senior U.S. intelligence official is casting doubt on China’s ability to make good on plans to possibly reunify Taiwan by force by its self-imposed deadline.

Various U.S. military and intelligence officials have testified publicly in recent years that Beijing’s own planning documents show President Xi Jinping has ordered the Chinese military to be ready to take Taiwan by force should efforts to reunify the island by other means fail.

They also have said China’s unprecedented military modernization and expansion efforts have been in line with the order to have an invasion plan ready to go by 2027 at the latest.

But Dave Frederick, the U.S. National Security Agency’s assistant deputy director for China, is not sure they can meet that deadline.

‘It’s a pretty ambitious goal, so [I] won’t make any predictions on whether they hit it or not,’ Frederick said at a security conference in Nashville, Tennessee. He added that China “remains focused on that 2027 capabilities” goal but that obstacles remain.

FILE - A screen broadcasts news footage of a Navy Force vessel taking part in military drills by the Eastern Theatre Command of China's People's Liberation Army around Taiwan, in a shopping area in Beijing, Aug. 19, 2023. FILE – A screen broadcasts news footage of a Navy Force vessel taking part in military drills by the Eastern Theatre Command of China’s People’s Liberation Army around Taiwan, in a shopping area in Beijing, Aug. 19, 2023.

One of those challenges, he said, is the ability of China’s military to land troops on the island of Taiwan.

An amphibious landing “would be a really, really challenging military problem for them,” Frederick said. “[A] very difficult military problem for them to pull off.”

However, he acknowledged that China is building a fourth amphibious landing craft and that “history’s got many examples of [a] government deciding to pursue a policy that may not even be in their best self-interest, and certainly in cases where military victory isn’t guaranteed.”

Chinese officials dismissed the talk, though, telling VOA by email the situation with Taiwan is “a matter that must be resolved by the Chinese [people].”

“If the U.S. truly hopes for peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait, it should abide by the one-China principle and the three China-U.S. joint communiques,” said Liu Pengyu, a spokesperson for the Chinese Embassy in Washington.

Washington should “stop meddling in the Taiwan question and stop creating new factors that could lead to tensions in the Taiwan Strait,” Liu added.

Frederick is not the first U.S. official to caution that China’s military expansion, buoyed by new equipment and weapons systems, may be outpacing its actual capabilities.

The U.S. Defense Department’s annual China Military Power Report issued late last year cautioned that Beijing itself believes it still faces some deficits as it tries to field a force capable of fighting and winning wars against other capable adversaries.

“They still have a long way to go in terms of having the level of military capability that we judge that they think that they need to advance their global security and economic interests,” a senior U.S. defense official told reporters at the time.

The official called the lack of combat experience ‘one of the shortcomings that the PRC highlights in a lot of their own self assessments.”

FILE - This file photo taken on Oct. 1, 2019 shows China's DF-41 nuclear-capable intercontinental ballistic missiles during a military parade at Tiananmen Square in Beijing


US Warns China’s Nuclear Arsenal Exceeding Predictions

Top U.S. intelligence officials have said that despite China’s desire to be able to take Taiwan by force, perhaps as early as next year, they believe Xi has not decided whether to use that option.

“Beijing will continue to apply military and economic pressure as well as public messaging and influence activities while promoting long-term cross-Strait economic and social integration to induce Taiwan to move toward unification,” according to last month’s annual threat assessment by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.

A separate assessment by the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency published last week concluded that “Beijing appears willing to defer the use of military force as long as it calculates that its unification with Taiwan ultimately can be negotiated.”

“The costs of armed conflict would outweigh the benefits, and its stated red lines have not been crossed by Taiwan, the United States, or other countries,” the DIA report added.

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