China and Taiwan tensions could get 'ugly' says expert
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The warning was made by Admiral Philip Davidson who holds the US Indo-Pacific command. Beijing refuses to accept the sovereignty of Taiwan, an island nation of 23 million, which it regards as part of its territory.
Senior Chinese officials have previously warned force could be used to capture the contested island.
Appearing before a US Senate committee Admiral Davidson warned China is aiming to replace America as the world’s dominant power.
He said: “I worry that they’re accelerating their ambitions to supplant the United States and our leadership role in the rules-based international order by 2050.
“Taiwan is clearly one of their ambitions before that.
“I think the threat is manifest during this decade, in fact, in the next six years.”
Last week China increased its military spending budget for 2021 to $209 billion (£151 billion).
Taiwan, formally the Republic of China, is controlled by the losing anti-communist faction from the 1927-49 Chinese civil war.
In the 1970s the US officially recognised the Beijing based People’s Republic, rather than Taiwan, as the legitimate Chinese government.
However, it continued to maintain close relations with Taiwan and American companies sold $5 billion (£3.6 billion) worth of weapons to the island in 2020.
In a move that infuriated China, Bi-khim Hsiao, the top Taiwanese envoy to the US, attended Joe Biden’s inauguration in January 2021.
Admiral Davidson also warned Guam, a US owned island which houses a major American military base, is vulnerable to attack.
He commented “Guam is a target today” and called for new missile defence systems to be installed.
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The admiral added Guam “needs to be defended and to be prepared for the threats that will come in the future”.
Tensions between the US and China surged during Donald Trump’s presidency.
The two super-powers clashed over trade, coronavirus, human rights and a number of territorial disputes.
America refuses to accept Beijing’s claim of sovereignty over much of the South China Sea, where its forces are building military bases on natural and artificial islands.
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The US, and other western powers, regularly send warships on “freedom of navigation” manoeuvres through the area to show they reject the Chinese claim.
Last year also saw a number of violent clashes between Chinese and Indian forces across the two nations contested border.
In June, 20 Indian soldiers in Ladakh died during hand-to-hand fighting with their Chinese counterparts.
As firearms are banned near the border the two sides used rocks, metal bars and clubs wrapped with barbed wire.
Speaking the American Enterprise Institute Admiral Davidson previously warned “the greatest danger [for] the United States and our allies in this region is the erosion of conventional deterrence vis-à-vis the People’s Republic of China”.
The commander added the US must be “prepared to fight and win” should a military clash with China take place.
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