In response, Aquilino, the commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet, declined to endorse the estimate, saying that there were “many numbers out there” ranging from “today to 2045,” but warned of the imminent threat against the self-ruled island.
“My opinion is, this problem is much closer to us than most think,” Aquilino said. “We have to take this on, put those deterrence capabilities like PDI in place in the near term and with urgency.”
Aquilino said the Chinese regime has its eyes set on Taiwan, which Beijing claims is a part of its territory.
“They view it as their number one priority. The rejuvenation of the Chinese Communist Party is at stake,” Aquilino said.
Taiwan is a de facto independent country with its own democratically elected officials, military, constitution, and currency. Currently, Washington doesn't have formal diplomatic ties with Taipei but has maintained a robust relationship with the island under the Taiwan Relations Act, which authorizes the United States to supply Taiwan with military equipment for the island’s defense.
However, the United States has maintained a longstanding policy of “strategic ambiguity”—meaning not clearly stating whether the U.S. government would come to defend Taiwan in the event of a Chinese attack.
Aquilino hinted that the U.S. military wouldn't stand idly by in such an event because that would “impact the credibility of the United States as a partner in the region.”
If the Chinese regime were to seize Taiwan, Aquilino said that would “negatively impact” the United States’ standing in the region and its ability “to operate freely in that area.”
Additionally, global trade would be impacted given Taiwan’s strategic location, according to Aquilino.
In terms of Taiwan’s self-defense, Aquilino applauded the island for investing in the Harpoon missile system.
“I'm encouraged by the capabilities that they're investing in, in an indigenous fashion for their defense. The example I would give you is the Harpoon system. I thought that was very thoughtful and the right capability for one example,” Aquilino said.
Taiwan would be most vulnerable to a Chinese invasion in the spring. According to Aquilino, spring would be the best time of the year for the Chinese military to invade, considering light, weather, and sea conditions.