July 15, 2024

(Bloomberg) — Chinese President Xi Jinping is unlikely to have the capability to conduct a successful invasion of Taiwan by 2027, according to a top Taiwanese security official, casting doubts on the progress of Beijing’s military modernization plans.

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Taiwan will continue to delay the People’s Liberation Army’s invasion timetable by strengthening its defense capabilities, Wellington Koo, the head of the island’s National Security Council, said Monday at a briefing in Taipei.

“I don’t think it will happen in the near future or at least within one to two years,” Koo said of a Chinese invasion. “If China needs to carry out amphibious landing operations to take Taiwan, I don’t think it will have such capabilities by 2027.”

Koo declined to pinpoint when an attack could happen, saying only that the island that China claims as its own doesn’t see Beijing making invasion preparations. Beijing is already facing uncertainty next year from its own economic downturn, while the world must also deal with the US election, and wars in Europe and the Middle East, he added.

Xi is seeking to build a “world-class force” by 2027, a deadline that coincides with the 100th anniversary of the PLA. Mark Milley, then chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said last year Beijing’s military won’t be ready to invade Taiwan for “some time.” His successor, Charles Q. Brown Jr., said last week he doubts Beijing plans to try to take Taiwan militarily.

Taiwan is separated from China by more than 100 miles (160 kilometers) of ocean, and its rugged coastline would make an amphibious invasion challenging. While China has the world’s largest navy by number of warships, its forces are largely untested.

Koo said Taiwan would use mobile weapons such as anti-ship missiles, Himars rocket systems, drones and Javelin anti-tank systems to make China’s landing operations more difficult in the event of an invasion. The US will bring forward a Himars shipment by one year to 2026.

Earlier this month, Koo said the US government is taking steps to speed up the delivery of American weapons systems to Taiwan that have been delayed by factors including shipments to Ukraine.

US President Joe Biden is expected to touch on Taiwan when he meets with Xi this week at a leaders’ summit in San Francisco. Biden has repeatedly vowed to defend Taiwan from any Chinese invasion, in comments that have angered Beijing and brought new uncertainty to Washington’s longstanding policy of “strategic ambiguity” over the island.

Koo said Taipei and the US are discussing a possible meeting between Biden and Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. founder Morris Chang at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit, where he is Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen’s special envoy. At last year’s conference, Chang had a brief chat with Xi that didn’t touch on Taiwan Strait tensions.

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Taiwan’s security cooperation with the US remains close, he said, with Washington pushing Taipei on defense reform, whole-society resilience and the construction of asymmetric warfare capabilities.

“The US has a stronger sense of urgency than Taiwan,” Koo said.

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