Defending Taiwan from Chinese invasion has become an “urgent” and “priority” task for the US military, a senior Pentagon official told lawmakers, claiming Beijing has plans to forcefully “unify” the island under mainland rule.
Testifying at the Senate Foreign Relations hearing on Wednesday, Assistant Defense Secretary for Indo-Pacific Security Affairs Ely Ratner sounded alarms over Taiwan’s safety, insisting that Washington must help it to counter a “real and dangerous” threat from China.
“Bolstering Taiwan’s defenses is an urgent task,” he said, adding “We are modernizing our capabilities, updating US force posture and developing new operational concepts.”
The PLA is likely preparing for a contingency to unify Taiwan with the PRC by force, while simultaneously attempting to deter, delay, or deny third-party intervention on Taiwan’s behalf.
Though the official offered no evidence of an imminent Chinese invasion, he nonetheless said defending the island should be “an absolute priority” for the US military. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, meanwhile, has pointed to recent operations by Chinese warships near Taiwan, deeming them “rehearsals” for an attack.
The call to bolster Taiwan’s defenses comes as the Joe Biden administration continues a number of long-standing policies that Beijing sees as hostile, including repeat transits of the Taiwan Strait with American warships, as well as weapon sales to Taipei. While Biden has yet to match his predecessor’s numerous arms transfers to the island, his State Department approved a $750 million deal for artillery gear and bomb guidance kits earlier this year, prompting vocal objections from China.
Since 2009, Washington has handed more than $32 billion in weapons to Taiwan and continues to engage with Taiwanese military officials.
Ratner’s comments on Wednesday are far from the first time a US official has accused Beijing of planning to attack the island. Back in May, Biden’s then-nominee to head the US Special Forces, Christopher Maier, went as far as to urge the Pentagon to train up Taiwanese guerillas to resist an “amphibious landing” by Beijing, suggesting a “Chinese military advance” could be in the cards.