This article was originally published by Radio Free Asia and is reprinted with permission.
China’s military is not yet capable of invading Taiwan, and any attempts to do so in the near future would be an error on par with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the top U.S. military official said.
The comments by Army Gen. Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, came after warnings from U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken that Beijing is speeding up its invasion plans and from the navy chief that an invasion could occur in 2023.
Milley told a press briefing at the Pentagon on Wednesday that Beijing would be playing “a very, very dangerous game to cross the straits and invade the island of Taiwan” any time soon.
“They don’t have the experience, the background to do it. They haven’t trained for it yet,” he said. “We watch it very, very closely.”
Taiwan was a “complex terrain” to control, Milley said, and an invasion required more naval, air and infantry practice from China.
“Most of Taiwan is a mountainous island,” he said. “It’s a very, very difficult military objective [to invade] – a very difficult military operation to execute, and I think it’ll be some time before the Chinese have the military capability and they’re ready to do it.”
Studying Ukraine invasion
He also said he believed Chinese President Xi Jinping had learned lessons from Russian President Vladimir Putin’s failing invasion of Ukraine, which is nearing its nine month mark.
“He’s a rational actor,” he said of Xi. “It would be a political mistake, a geopolitical mistake, a strategic mistake similar to the strategic mistake that Putin has made in Ukraine.”
Speaking at the same press briefing, U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said he hoped the recent meeting between President Joe Biden and Xi on the sidelines of the Group of 20 summit in Bali, Indonesia, could lead to renewed military-to-military talks.
Beijing cut off direct channels of communication in the wake of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan in August.
“As you’ve heard me say a number of times, I think it’s really important for large countries with significant military capacity to talk to each other,” Austin told reporters. “That helps with crisis management, it helps with a number of things. So, my hope is that they will open up their communications channels.”