US intelligence chief says Chinese pose ‘serious’ threat to Taiwan

China is building up the military needed to invade and take over Taiwan by 2030, posing a “serious” threat to Taiwan’s democracy, what a top U.S. intelligence official said on Tuesday.

Director of National Intelligence Avril Haynes told a Senate hearing that Chinese leaders are still learning the lessons of the stalled Russian invasion of Ukraine, but remain determined to seize Taiwan, preferably through the Taiwanese government’s surrender. Beijing has long claimed the island of nearly 24 million people is an integral part of China, and has shown growing anger at U.S. efforts to bolster Taiwan’s defense resources.

“We believe they are trying to effectively put themselves in a position where their military is capable of occupying Taiwan with our intervention,” Ms Haynes told a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing investigating growing global threats to U.S. security .

“I think it’s fair to say [the situation] is critical or critical between now and 2030,” she added when questioned by lawmakers.

Intelligence agencies are still assessing the lessons China may have learned from the Ukraine war and how that will affect Beijing’s timeline. The difficulties Russia has faced against a much smaller foe and the advantages defenders appear to have in modern warfare are factoring into China’s consideration since the invasion began on February 24.

Adm. Philip Davidson, the former commander of Indo-Pacific Command, said last year that China could try to take over Taiwan by the end of the century. His successor, General John Aquilino, later said an invasion could come before 2030.

China’s decision on when to act against Taiwan will be influenced by U.S. and Taiwanese military capabilities, which were enhanced after the Russian invasion.

Unlike the clear and repeated advance warning of a Russian invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24 by U.S. analysts and the Biden White House, intelligence agencies are expected to have a harder time on signs and warnings of a Chinese military attack on Taiwan, Ms. Haynes said. period. Issued before the war began.

Lieutenant General Scott Berrier, director of the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency, said it is highly likely that China sees the conflict in Ukraine as an opportunity to launch an invasion of Taiwan rather than a cautionary tale.

The DIA’s assessment, however, is that the Chinese are “not ready to do this right now,” he said, adding that he could discuss the matter with lawmakers at a confidential private briefing after Tuesday’s hearing.

General Berrier said that based on monitoring Chinese military activity, “I don’t see any indication that they are considering trying to use the time they think they might have” to make a sudden invasion of Taiwan. The whole world is watching Ukraine.

Taiwan also needs to do more to enhance its military capabilities, and the Taipei government is discussing the necessary steps with the Pentagon, he said.

Lessons from Ukraine

Ms Haynes said the ruling Chinese Communist Party and military leaders were still assessing the lessons of Ukraine’s military operations and how they might affect the situation in Taiwan.

“So, it’s hard to tell whether this is an increased or decreased threat to their accelerated efforts against Taiwan,” she said.

She said U.S. intelligence analysts had not assessed that the conflict in Ukraine was causing Beijing to step up its invasion plans.

Ms Haynes described two takeaways from the Ukrainian conflict for the Chinese.

Although Moscow is a major energy supplier to much of Western Europe, it is surprising that both the United States and Europe have responded quickly and uniformly with economic sanctions to Russian aggression. If Beijing invades Taiwan, sanctions are something Beijing must now consider.

The second lesson is whether the PLA has the confidence to succeed in a military invasion of Taiwan, given possible military intervention by the United States.

This is expected to influence Chinese leaders’ decision-making on the Taiwan conflict.

“We think that seeing what’s happening in Russia might make them lose confidence in some respects about what could happen in a future Taiwan war,” Ms Haynes said.

Senator Josh Hawley said one of the lessons learned from Ukraine was that “deterrence didn’t work: Russia invaded Ukraine.”

“Personally, I don’t want to have this conversation in any capacity in any year,” the Missouri Republican said. “My sense of urgency is [that] We better figure out how deterrence will work in Taiwan, because if China succeeds in the fait accompli, it will be very different from Ukraine. “

General Beryl said he agreed.

In prepared testimony to a Senate panel, General Beryl said China was threatening Taiwan and continued provocative military activities, such as warplanes invading Taipei’s air defense zone. The three-star general said China was also rapidly building up its military in all areas, including space and cyber weapons, which could tip the balance of deterrence in the 110-mile-wide Taiwan Strait.

“China has a range of military options to coerce Taiwan, including increased military presence, air and sea blockades, capture of Taiwan’s smaller outlying islands, and a full-scale amphibious invasion of Taiwan,” he said. “Beijing appears willing to delay the use of force as long as it believes it can negotiate reunification with Taiwan” and a costly conflict can be avoided.

China has yet to announce a timetable for retaking Taiwan, but has increased hostile rhetoric and military activity against Taipei and independence-leaning President Tsai Ing-wen over the past three years.

Chinese President Xi Jinping in January 2019 reiterated China’s long-standing stance on refusing to renounce the use of force to resolve the Taiwan issue.

This week, the Chinese navy conducted what Chinese state media said was an exercise to surround the island. A naval battle group exercise included the flight of the aircraft carrier Liaoning with J-15 fighter jets. Concurrent with the naval exercises, Chinese warplanes conducted operations involving nuclear-capable H-6 bombers and J-11 and J-16 fighter jets from Thursday to Sunday.

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