WASHINGTON – A U.S. military commander sent shockwaves around the world during his testimony in Congress earlier this year when he set a specific timeline on a possible eventuality of Taiwan.
Can Adm. Philip Davidson, who at the time commanded the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, was questioned by a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee in March about a potential conflict in the Taiwan Strait.
âI think the threat is evident over this decade – in fact, over the next six years,â Davidson said.
Davidson, who is now retired and has joined the Sasakawa Peace Foundation USA’s project advisory committee, told Nikkei on Tuesday that he was aware of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s leadership terms when calculating the timeline.
Xi is generally expected to remain in power beyond the Communist Party’s next five-year national convention in the fall of 2022. But when the party meets again five years later, in 2027, there could be a transition, Davidson said, which could impact the decision to move to Taiwan.
Edited excerpts from the interview follow.
Q: Your analysis that a threat in the Taiwan Strait could materialize within the next six years has sparked a wide debate among Indo-Pacific security experts. We think it’s important to understand what you meant.
A: What this explicitly means is that changes in the [People’s Liberation Army]capabilities of the, with their missiles and cyber forces, and their ability to train, to advance their joint interoperability and combat support logistics, all of these trend lines tell me that in the next six years, they will have the capacity and the capacity to force reunify with Taiwan, if they choose the force to do so.
At the same time, over the next six years, it is clear to me that China pursues a multi-party approach that seeks to coerce, corrupt and co-opt the international community so that it can achieve their geopolitical advantage, in this way. which some describe as “the hybrid zone” or “the gray zone” or the “three wars” or “the law”, any of those things, to force Taiwan to surrender due to an extreme, diplomatic situation, economical, pressure and tension.
Q: But why exactly six years? Does it have something to do with the political situation in China or your calculation regarding Chinese capabilities?
A: This is an important part. The capacity trend is changing as well.
I said “if China Choose to use force. This choice becomes much more likely over the next six years due to Xi Jinping’s potential for transition in 2027, as his political future is primarily determined by himself, and his ability to gain some support for it may depend on it. . Calendar 2027.
Q: Some analysts would say that the PLA’s capacity is already greater than that of the United States in a potential conflict over the Taiwan Strait. What is your assessment?
A: Chinese capacity is improving. Certainly their capacity, the number of forces at their disposal, is also improving. They are closing the gap with American and Japanese forces. They are bridging that gap with training, establishing joint command and control structures and working the combat support logistics that are needed there.
They also advance their skill sets. It is mainly air, sea, cyberspace, rocket forces, mainly space forces. They have taken risks in their ground forces in order to find the funds necessary to advance these capabilities, and they are investing heavily in it.
But, at the moment, I think the American and Japanese forces are in the lead.
Q: How important is it for the United States and Japan to coordinate their strategies in light of an emergency in Taiwan?
A: The US-Japan alliance is certainly the most critical alliance for the United States in this decade, and I would say decades to come as well. Deepening our defense cooperation is essential.
There are some things we need to do to increase the bond level in both countries. This concerns the deepening of our scrupulous management of our cybersecurity networks. This would allow us to deepen our intelligence and information sharing.
And when we talk about information sharing, it’s about planning, it’s about operational cooperation, it’s about tactical cooperation at sea and in the air, and all that sort of thing.
I was quite happy with the progress I was able to make during my tenure. I will tell you that our planning, our bilateral planning obligations, are deeper and more transparent than ever before, and we must continue to move in that direction.
Q: Should the United States drop “strategic ambiguity” and make it clear that it will defend Taiwan in the event of a conflict in the Taiwan Strait?
A: There are only two policy rules. First of all, you must have one. And second, you need to know when to change it.
Over the past few months, there has been a lot of thought about whether it should be changed, and [there is an] agree that the policy of strategic ambiguity should be maintained for now. And I agree with that.
Q: Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin has ordered a comprehensive posture review to deal with current challenges, primarily in China. What will it look like and what impact will it have on Japan?
A: The last three administrations have made it clear that the Indo-Pacific theater should be the priority theater in the future.
Certainly, the support the United States receives from Japan, in terms of bases and capabilities in Japan, is essential for this future, but the United States also needs a more expeditionary posture outside of Japan, throughout the Indo-Pacific region, which could help deter peacetime and daily posture, as well as having places to go in times of crisis, to help deter PLA adventurism.
To be frank, the posture required in the Indo-Pacific has to be – the expeditionary posture in particular – much more robust.