Commander of the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, Philip Davidson has said that Taiwan could be the first potential target of Chinese military aggression in the next five to 10 years.
His remarks came in response to questions from Republican lawmaker Scott DesJarlais during a House Armed Services Committee hearing on national security challenges on Wednesday. The questions also included what he considers to be the most likely target of Chinese aggression or military action in the next 5 to 10 years.
“Given what they’ve said both publicly and over time, and certainly during the tenure of Chairman Xi Jinping, I would say Taiwan is the first,” Davidson said.
On Tuesday, the commander said that Beijing’s threats toward Taiwan could manifest in the next six years as China seeks to supplant the U.S. leadership role in the international order.
Davidson was also asked to express his views on how cross-Taiwan Strait relations have evolved over the past three years during his tenure as commander of the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command.
He responded that China’s revocation of its “one country, two systems” approach in Hong Kong alarmed Taiwan to an extent that during Taiwan’s 2019 legislative elections, both the Democratic Progressive Party and the Kuomintang had to voice their opposition to the “one country, two systems” approach.
“So, it has steeled, I think, Taiwan’s status in the region and I think all other nations in the region as well have noticed a very pernicious approach that China took to Hong Kong and that has put a chill on many relationships as well,” Davidson said.
David F. Helvey, acting assistant secretary of defense for Indo-Pacific Security Affairs, said the future of the U.S. is inextricably linked to that of the Indo-Pacific region.
“As our department’s priority theater, we’re committed to upholding a free and open Indo-Pacific region where all nations, large and small, are secure in their sovereignty, can pursue economic opportunity and resolve disputes without coercion, and can exercise the freedoms of navigation over flight, consistent with an open and stable international order,” Helvey explained.
Earlier this week, the White House said that Washington will continue to contribute to Taiwan’s self-defence capabilities. “Our position on Taiwan remains clear. We will stand with friends and allies to advanced our shared prosperity, security and values. And in the Indo-Pacific region, we maintain our long-standing commitment,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki told reporters on Monday.
“We maintain our long-standing commitments as outlined in the three communicates, the Taiwan Relations Act and the six assurances. We will continue to assist Taiwan in maintaining a sufficient self-defense capability. So our position remains the same,” she added.
Beijing claims full sovereignty over Taiwan, a democracy of almost 24 million people located off the southeastern coast of mainland China, despite the fact that the two sides have been governed separately for more than seven decades.
Taipei, on the other hand, has countered the Chinese aggression by increasing strategic ties with democracies including the US, which has been repeatedly opposed by Beijing.
Taiwan returned to the forefront of US-China tensions last weekend when Beijing sent more than two dozen warplanes into the self-governing island’s air defence identification zone in a 48-hour period.