Tue, 12 Dec 2023

Taipei has surmised that Beijing will not have the capability to take over the self-governing island by 2027

Chinese President Xi Jinping won't have the military wherewithal to launch a successful invasion of Taiwan within the next few years, meaning the self-governing island has more time to build up its defense capabilities, a top Taiwanese security official has claimed.

"I don't think it will happen in the near future or at least within one to two years," Taiwanese National Security Council chief Wellington Koo told reporters on Tuesday in Taipei. "If China needs to carry out amphibious landing operations to take Taiwan, I don't think it will have such capabilities by 2027."

Koo's comments echo an assessment last year by US Army General Mark Milley, then chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who said Beijing would not be ready to forcibly reunify with Taiwan for "some time." Milley claimed that China's People's Liberation Army (PLA) didn't have the "experience" or "background" to successfully invade the self-governing island and had not yet trained for such an operation. At the time, he said Xi wanted the PLA to be ready to invade Taiwan by 2027.

That alleged timeline gives Taiwan more time to further delay the threat of a Chinese invasion by continuing to build up its military forces, Koo said. He added that Taiwanese forces would use anti-ship missiles, US-made HIMARS rocket systems, drones and Javelin anti-tank weapons to batter PLA units as they tried to breach the island's rugged coastline.

Tensions in the Taiwan Strait have ratcheted up in recent years amid increased US meddling in the region and large-scale PLA drills. China has vowed to reunify with the breakaway province, by force if necessary. The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) said in September that reunification with Taiwan was "the inevitable requirement for realizing the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation." 

Koo praised Washington for rushing to strengthen Taiwan's forces for a potential invasion by accelerating weapons deliveries and training troops. He said security cooperation with the US covered "all aspects" of the island's defenses. "I can only say, they are using all possible ways to help us - no matter if it's in training or the buildup of asymmetric fighting capabilities."

China faces a year of uncertainty, given its economic woes and the conflicts in Ukraine and Israel, Koo said. He also predicted that Beijing will increase its pressure on Taipei if ruling-party candidate Lai Ching-te wins Taiwan's presidential election in January.

However, Koo added, "I don't think that China is already prepared to take military action against us after the election results come out on January 13. We have not seen that they are making preparations or have that capability yet."

US President Joe Biden is scheduled to hold a long-awaited meeting with Xi on Wednesday in San Francisco, which is hosting this week's Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit. Koo said the Taiwanese government is trying to secure a one-on-one meeting between its envoy, billionaire TSMC founder Morris Chang, and Biden. "The two sides are discussing related arrangements," Koo said.

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