One day after President Joe Biden said the U.S. would defend Taiwan militarily, his Air Force secretary issued a stern warning to Beijing: Don’t do it.
Frank Kendall said Chinese leaders should look no further than Russia’s botched attempt to take over Ukraine to see why an invasion of Taiwan would not be easy and would have severe consequences.
“China would be making an enormous mistake to invade Taiwan,” Kendall told reporters Monday at the Air and Space Forces Association’s Air, Space & Cyber conference.
Kendall, has been sounding the alarm about China’s efforts to modernize since his time as the Pentagon’s top weapons buyer during the Obama administration, said there is “no evidence that there’s an imminent invasion of Taiwan intended by anybody.”
Kendall pointed to three miscalculations Russia made by invading Ukraine:
- “[T]he economic consequences of an act of aggression like that can be very significant,”
- “[W]hat your military is telling you about how good it is, may not be true,” and
- [T]he short war you imagine may not be the war you get.”
President Biden on Sunday told 60 Minutes that U.S. troops would help defend Taiwan from an invasion. It’s the third time since becoming president in January 2021 that Biden said the U.S. would help defend Taiwan. The White House said the U.S. official position of strategic ambiguity has not changed, despite Biden’s comments.
“I believe that the Taiwanese people would fight, and I believe that we would assist them in some form,” Kendall said.
Since Becoming Air Force secretary in July 2021, Kendall has worked to prioritize weapons programs that counter China’s military modernizations. He’s regularly said his top three priorities are “China, China, China”—a phrase Patrick Shanahan often used during his six months as acting defense secretary, during the Trump administration.
“My job [and] our job in the Air Force certainly, is to have our forces be as capable, and as ready as they can be at any time,” Kendall said. “I see the risk…increasing over time as China modernizes.”
The U.S. military must stay ahead, Kendall said. In recent years the Pentagon has prioritized the development of new weapons, including hypersonic missiles and a new generation of warplanes.
“The United States is the most powerful military in the world,” Kendall said. “It is going to stay the most powerful military in the world.”
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