JUST IN: Deterring China Requires Build Up of U.S. Nuclear Defenses, Admiral Says
If the United States hopes to deter China from invading Taiwan, the country needs to up the urgency of funding and development of nuclear defense systems, said the commander of U.S. Indo-Pacific Command.
Tensions have been rising in the Indo-Pacific region, and U.S. intelligence suspects Chinese President Xi Jinping has ordered the Chinese military to be prepared to take Taiwan by force by 2027, said Adm. John Aquilino at an Aspen Security Forum panel in Aspen, Colorado, July 19. With the United States supporting Ukraine in its war against Russia, time to deter China from annexing Taiwan may be running out, he added.
“I would like there to be an increased sense of urgency to deliver the capabilities that I’ve asked for, and to do them at a time and a speed that’s relevant,” Aquilino said. “We certainly ought to be ready before  if we’re doing our jobs.”
Understanding how quickly China is advancing in its defense technology and the extent of the threat China pose to the United States and Taiwan is crucial, he said.
“We had been living in a world where we believed that peace was going to break out with Russia and there was no chance of a war in Europe,” Aquilino said. “We had been living in a world where we believed that the [People’s Liberation Army] was going to integrate into the world international rules-based order in a way that was responsible.
“That’s not the world we live in,” he continued. “To be prepared and ready to live in that world, we ought to put all of our capabilities in place, our posture initiatives in place, our alliances and partnerships in place.”
In response to a question whether the U.S. military’s “failure” to deter Russia from attacking Ukraine helps illustrate how important speed, urgency and preparedness is in the United States’ effort to deter China from annexing Taiwan, Aquilino said it’s not as important as one would think, but there is much to learn from the situation.
“I'm not concerned that deterrence is failing in the Pacific,” he said. “That said, we want to continue to position ourselves from a place of strength. We want our allies and partners to work and operate with us, and we want to have all of those partners articulate the importance of the rules-based international order China is not going away.”
One factor that plays into China’s decision whether to invade Taiwan is China’s advanced hypersonic missile capabilities, which are “second to none at the speed and rate at which it’s being delivered,” he said.
And China’s rapid advancement is not limited to hypersonic missiles, the country is advancing in all military capabilities — the maritime environment, in the air domain, in space — “hypersonic and missile capability is only one part of that,” he said.
While Aquilino expressed concern about the buildup and capabilities China is delivering and the speed at which they are being delivered, he also said that the United States can and will continue to develop defense systems that can ensure the safety of the country and military forces, as long as the sense of urgency and preparedness is there.
“It's critical that the U.S. continues the modernization of our strategic capabilities,” he said “It’s very costly, but it is required. It is the bottom-line defense of this nation through strategic nuclear deterrence. That said, the Chinese are going very quickly. … What matters is that we modernize our force and we’re ready to be able to respond.”