A report by the Taiwanese Ministry of National Defense released this week predicts that China will have developed a “wholly sufficient” military presence near the island to invade by 2020. As the United States is obligated by treaty to defend Taiwan in the event of an invasion, this report also predicts China will be able to defeat American forces protecting the island.
According to Reuters, this is the first time the Taiwanese defense ministry has given such a precise deadline for a potential successful invasion. “Over the long-term, it will be wholly sufficient to engage in a war over Taiwan by 2020,” the report argues, citing several developments the Chinese military has been endeavoring to fund recently, particularly “long-range precision strike weaponry” capabilities. That calculation takes into account not only the Taiwanese military but any intervening power. It has been years since Taiwan argued that it could unilaterally defeat an invading Chinese army, but concerns of Western intervention have largely kept that threat of violence subdued in past decades.
China’s government has officially responded that they have yet to see the full report, but are optimistic about the “momentum of peaceful development” between the two parties, calling talks “beneficial to both sides.”
The report comes at a pivotal time in relations between Taiwan and China. Taiwan asserts its sovereignty as the Republic of China, while China views the island as a province falsely asserting said sovereignty and has encouraged talks while not discounting the possibility of using force. The summer was wrought with tension as activists clashed in Taiwan over a potential trade agreement with mainland China that could make the island more economically dependent on what many perceive to be a military threat.
While the potential for a trade agreement circulated, Taiwan sided with the United States during talks regarding multilateral trade in the South China Sea, calling for freer navigation for trade vessels.
Recently, Chinese President Xi Jinping called for talks between the two governments, arguing that the division “should be resolved step-by-step” in a negotiating process. Calls on the part of Taiwan for military reinforcements continued nonetheless, however. Deputy Defense Minister Yen Teh-fa, on a visit to the United States earlier this month, called for the United States to send further aid to their defense, describing China as a continued “grave threat.”
The words came as something of a surprise to those following the rise of Taiwanese leader Ma Ying-jeou, who is perceived to be more China-friendly than his predecessors.