Senior U.S. military officials have worried in recent months that a Chinese military invasion of Taiwan could be just a few years away.
The Navy’s senior officer warned Wednesday that it may come even sooner than that.
Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Mike Gilday, Chief of Naval Operations, said a cross-strait invasion of Taiwan could occur in 2023 or even before the end of the year.
“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,” Adm. Gilday said Wednesday at the Atlantic Council think tank in D.C. “What we’ve seen over the past 20 years is that [the Chinese have] delivered on every promise they’ve made earlier than they said they were going to deliver on it.”
During a major Chinese Communist Party congress Sunday in Beijing, President Xi Jinping denounced those seeking Taiwan’s independence and stressed Beijing’s determination to “reclaim” the island democracy under Beijing’s control — peacefully or otherwise.
“There is no commitment to renounce the use of force and the option to take all necessary measures is retained,” Mr. Xi said.
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Adm. Gilday said ensuring the Navy’s fleet is as ready as it can be is his top priority as chief of naval operations, after a period of unusual strain for the service.
“We’re still recovering with our carrier force, as an example, for back-to-back deployments that we did 10 years ago. We’re still catching up on deferred maintenance so we can get 50 years out of those platforms,” he said. “I’m not going to come off of the maintenance piece in terms of an area where we can save money because we just can’t.”
He said there are Navy warships that haven’t been able to go through extended maintenance periods at a dry dock since 2009 and others that haven’t come out of maintenance for three years.
That also applies to supply requirements and training sailors, he said.
“I don’t think we can skimp on that,” Adm. Gilday said. “When it comes down to making hard decisions on where to put your next dollar, those are decisions that need to be made and debated at the Pentagon.”