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Defense of Taiwan Vital to Regional, National Security, Admiral Says

23 March 2021

From David Vergun

The Indo-Pacific is the most consequential region for America's future and remains the priority theater for the United States. 

While Russia, North Korea and violent extremist organizations are a threat to the Indo-Pacific region, China is of most concern, particularly in its stated number one priority of taking control of Taiwan, said Navy Adm. John Aquilino testifying today before the Senate Armed Services Committee. The committee is considering his nomination for commander of U.S. Indo-Pacific Command.

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Aquilino noted that various studies predict that China might decide to launch a military strike against Taiwan sometime between now and 2045. 

"My opinion is this problem is much closer to us than most think," he said.

If China is allowed to take over Taiwan, it would be a severe blow to the credibility of the United States as a strong and trusted partner in the region, he said.

To meet this challenge, it will take all elements of national power, working together and with a sense of urgency, he said, adding that allies and partners will also play a key role.

An aircraft carrier floats on the sea.
An aircraft carrier floats on the sea.
USS Theodore Roosevelt
The aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt transits the Indian Ocean March 20, 2021.
Photo By: Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class Wade Costin
VIRIN: 210320-N-FZ335-1325C

The Pacific Deterrence Initiative is a strong example of the effort required to compete and win in the region, Aquilino said.

The initiative focuses on acquiring advanced military capabilities to deter China, including space-based radars, missile defense, long-range precision fires, logistics, experimentation and innovation, and improved interoperability and exercises with allies and partners.

In accordance with the Taiwan Relations Act, the U.S. and multinational partners conduct training exercises with Taiwan, he said.

Also, Aquilino said he was encouraged by Taiwan's purchase of defensive military capabilities.

A machine gunner takes aim out of a helicopter.
A machine gunner takes aim out of a helicopter.
Scout Sniper
Marine Corps Cpl. Ryan Lauritsen, a scout sniper with 3d Battalion, 3d Marine Regiment, engages a target during aerial sniper training at Camp Hansen, Okinawa, Japan, March 17, 2021.
Photo By: Marine Corps Staff Sgt. David Staten
VIRIN: 210317-M-XW591-778C
A landing craft takes to the water.
A landing craft takes to the water.
Pacific Transport
A Navy Landing Craft, Air Cushion with Assault Craft Unit 5 transports 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit equipment and personnel on the Wasp-class amphibious assault ship USS Essex, in the Pacific, March 20, 2021.
Photo By: Marine Corps Cpl. Israel Chincio
VIRIN: 210320-M-ET529-1015C

The need to defend Guam is also incredibly important, he said. That island, west of the International Dateline, hosts thousands of U.S. forces and is home to 170,000 U.S. citizens.

Aquilino noted many important partnerships in the region, including the so-called "Quad Partnership" the U.S. has with Japan, Australia and India.

He noted that China's only partner in the region is North Korea, although China and Russia sometimes conduct joint military exercises.

As the administration's Interim National Security Strategic Guidance points out, he said, "America's fate is intertwined with events beyond our shores. Global peace and prosperity depend on our presence in the Indo-Pacific."

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