One of America’s top naval leaders said a Chinese invasion of Taiwan could happen much sooner than anyone thinks.
To be ready, the Navy has “our eyes on preparing ourselves for a potential fight tonight,” Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Mike Gilday said, according to the New York Post.
Gilday’s comments came several days after Chinese President Xi Jinping hammered home his claim that Taiwan should become part of China. The self-governing island has vowed to protect its independence.
In his remarks to the Atlantic Council on Wednesday, Gilday said the problem runs far deeper than Xi’s words, according to USNI News.
“It’s not just what President Xi says, but it’s how the Chinese behave and what they do. And what we’ve seen over the past 20 years is that they have delivered on every promise they’ve made earlier than they said they were going to deliver on it,” Gilday said.
Although former U.S. Indo-Pacific Command chief Adm. Phil Davidson has invoked 2027 as the year when he thinks China will be ready to invade Taiwan, Gilday said China might not wait that long.
“When we talk about the 2027 window, in my mind that has to be a 2022 window or … potentially a 2023 window. I can’t rule that out. I don’t mean at all to be alarmist by saying that, it’s just that we can’t wish that away,” he said.
Gilday said the Navy’s challenge is to improve readiness, lethality and fleet size, according to Defense News.
The Navy cannot “field ships out there in a fight that aren’t lethal, capable and ready to win. It’s readiness over capacity; the ships that we put out there have to be ready to fight.”
Some older ships will need to be decommissioned, he said.
“Some of them are three years behind in coming out of maintenance, at [added] costs of $80 million or more, with a weapon system that is not going to be upgraded in time to face the threat that the Chinese pose.”
Gilday said some ships are being repaired that should be decommissioned, and it is siphoning away time and money that could be used to upgrade readiness.
He said everything the Navy spends must bring it closer to the goal of repelling the threat from China.
Xi’s comments about foreign interference will not deter U.S. patrols that transit the Strait of Taiwan or sail the South China Sea, Gilday said.
Gilday said the Navy’s 2024 budget will reflect the “fight tonight” mindset.
“Leadership in the Pentagon doesn’t have a lot of time to have discussions about nice-to-haves. We’re talking about what we must have in order to deter and fight and win,” he said.
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