U.S. military officials warned Tuesday that China’s unrelenting pressure campaign against Taiwan is only increasing the chances for mistakes and, perhaps, an unintended fight.
The Pentagon accused Beijing of ratcheting up tensions across the Taiwan Strait, cautioning that the “provocative” tactics could backfire.
“The PRC (People’s Republic of China) has stepped up efforts to intimidate, pressure Taiwan and other allies and partners, including increasing their military activities conducted in the vicinity of Taiwan, the East China Sea and the South China Sea, which we believe are destabilizing and only increase the risk of miscalculation,” Pentagon press secretary John Kirby told reporters.
Kirby added that the U.S. commitment to Taiwan remains “rock solid.”
“We have an abiding interest in peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait, and that’s why we’re going to continue to assist Taiwan in maintaining a sufficient self-defense capability,” he said. “We urge Beijing to honor its commitment to the peaceful resolution of cross-strait differences.”
China’s increasingly public push for the reunification of Taipei and Beijing has sparked a heated back and forth with Taiwanese leaders who want to keep Taiwan as a self-governing entity.
“We will do our utmost to prevent the status quo from being unilaterally altered,” Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen said Sunday while speaking at the territory’s National Day celebration.
“We will continue to bolster our national defense and demonstrate our determination to defend ourselves in order to ensure that nobody can force Taiwan to take the path China has laid out for us,” she added.
Tsai’s comments followed Chinese President Xi Jinping’s declaration Saturday that reunification with Taiwan “must be realized.”
“No one should underestimate the Chinese people’s strong determination, will and capability to safeguard national sovereignty and territorial integrity,” he said.
Chinese media have also railed against reports that the U.S. has a small contingent of special forces and Marines in Taiwan to train Taiwanese forces.
U.S. defense officials have repeatedly refused to comment on the alleged training, first reported by The Wall Street Journal.
“I don’t have anything to say publicly about those reports,” the Pentagon’s Kirby said Tuesday, when pressed on the issue.
U.S. military and intelligence officials have been increasingly concerned with what they see as China’s ever more aggressive military posture toward Taiwan, highlighted by a series of aerial incursions that saw more than 150 Chinese jets encroach on Taiwan’s air defense identification zone over a span of several days last week.
As recently as June, however, U.S. military officials questioned whether Beijing would be capable of taking Taiwan by force.
“China has a ways to go to develop the actual no-kidding capability to conduct military operations to seize through military means the entire island of Taiwan, if they wanted to do that,” General Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said at the time.
“I think that there’s little intent right now or motivation to do it militarily,” he added, calling the probability of an attack low. “But it is a core — c-o-r-e — national interest of China to unite Taiwan.”