U.S. Army Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, believes China hopes to have the capability to invade and take control of Taiwan within the next six years, but should not do so in the near future.
Testifying before the House Armed Services Committee in Congress Wednesday, Adm. Milley also referred to statements made earlier this year during congressional testimony by former U.S. Indo-Pacific Command Commander Phil Davidson and current Indo-Pacific Command Commander John Aquilino that China is prepared to occupy Taiwan within the next six years, based on Chinese leader Xi Jinping’s comments about Taiwan in his speech to the Chinese military.
In his speech, Xi called on the People’s Liberation Army to accelerate modernization and advance the development of its ability to take Taiwan from 2035 to 2027, Milley said.
But Milley doesn’t think China has that intention. He said, “It’s a capability, not an intent to attack or seize. My assessment is an operational assessment.”
Milley said his assessment of what he has seen and heard so far is that China does not yet have the intent to take Taiwan within a year or two.
The difficulty of invading Taiwan remains a major obstacle for the PLA, Milley said. I don’t think it will happen suddenly,” he said. It makes no sense, the costs to China far outweigh the benefits, and President Xi and his military will do the math, knowing that an invasion – in order to take an island as large, populated and defensible as Taiwan – would be very complicated and expensive.”
Davidson had told a Senate hearing in March that the threat of an invasion of Taiwan had intensified.
“I am concerned that they are accelerating their ambition to supplant the United States and our leadership role in a rules-based international order. They’ve long said they want to do that by 2050. I’m concerned that they will move to get closer to that goal.”
Davidson said Taiwan is clearly one of the ambitions that precedes that goal and is actually the ambition for the next six years.
General Milley said supporting military action in a war against China would pose serious problems for the U.S. military, but that for now the U.S. military is stronger than Beijing’s.
Milley also reiterated an earlier assessment that China currently lacks the capability to conduct a military takeover of Taiwan and that such an attack could lead to the involvement of U.S. forces in its defense.