Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin on defending Taiwan

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Admiral Michael Gilday, chief of US naval operation said that recent rhetoric from Beijing indicated that a potential invasion could happen much earlier than previously thought. Although he said that he didn’t want to be “alarmist” Admiral Gilday emphasised that the US military needed to be ready for such an eventuality.

He said: “So when we talk about the 2027 window in my mind, that has to be a 2022 window or potentially a 2023 window.

“I can’t rule that out. I don’t mean at all to be alarmist by saying that.

“It’s just that we can’t wish that away.”

The admiral insisted that the US Navy had shifted to a “fight tonight” mentality and it should become ready quicker to respond to a Chinese threat.

He also emphasised that Chinese President Xi Jinping appeared more willing to invade Taiwan than previously thought.

On Sunday, Xi delivered a landmark speech to the Communist Party congress where he promised to “reunify” one day with Taiwan.

Speaking to the Atlantic Council in Washington DC Admiral Gilday was asked about Xi’s speech.

He was also questioned about testimony of another US admiral to Congress last year that Beijing intended to be ready to take Taiwan by 2027.

He said: “It’s not just what President Xi says, it’s how the Chinese behave and what they do.

“And what we’ve seen over the past 20 years is that they have delivered on every promise they’ve made earlier than they said they were going to deliver on it.”

In order to be prepared for a Chinese attack he emphasised that the US needed to “maximise domestic production rates of weapons that really matter in a fight”.

He added: “We’re talking about what we must have in order to deter and fight and win.

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“The ships that we put out there have to be ready to fight.”

It comes as Taiwan’s top security official Chen Ming-tong warned that any attempt by Beijing to invade the island would fail.

He said: “I want to solemnly tell the Beijing authorities that there is no chance of winning to attack Taiwan by force.

“It would lead to international economic sanctions and diplomatic isolation, ruining his [Mr Xi’s] ‘great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation’ and making him a sinner of the Chinese nation.”

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