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Tipsheet

Pentagon Insists China Won't Take Taiwan in Next Two Years. Here’s Why Their Assurances Mean Nothing.

AP Photo/Chiang Ying-ying, File

In a press briefing on Monday, the Pentagon outlined what the next $1 billion in aid for Ukraine would go toward, but all eyes remain on China and Taiwan in the wake of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's visit to Taipei that saw Chinese forces engage in live fire drills around Taiwan in an escalating show of force.

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Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Dr. Colin H. Kahl — the #3 leader at the Pentagon — briefed reports amid an apparent stalemate between American and Chinese defense officials. That is, Beijing won't even take calls from Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Joint Chiefs Chair Mark Milley. 

Despite China's aggression — that included state media threatening to shoot down the U.S. Air Force plane that Pelosi was traveling on and China's subsequent live fire exercises surrounding Taiwan — the Pentagon on Monday stood by its earlier assessment that China would not seize Taiwan by force within the next two years. 

If that sounds familiar to the assurances the Biden administration gave roughly one year ago about the assessment that Afghanistan would not quickly fall to the Taliban, it should. It goes without saying that the situations in Afghanistan and along the Taiwan Strait have significant differences and multiple different challenges. That said, trusting what the Biden administration says about a foe's abilities and intentions is more difficult now than it was before the denial of a collapse in Afghanistan happening over a weekend — followed by Kabul's fall in about 72 hours.

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Suggesting perhaps even more denial about China's intentions toward China, Under Secretary Kahl also sought to minimize the threat Chinese aggression poses to international trade by activities or open hostility in the Taiwan Strait. "My sense," he explained, "is that there hasn't been much of an effect on Taiwans economy or the international economy" from China's recent live fire drills. 

Still, Kahl acknowledged that "there could be a point at which the PRC could engage in activities that could have economic consequences for Taiwan and the world economy" and reiterated the U.S. calls for "stability in the Taiwan Strait." Kahl insisted that the Biden administration would not take China's bait, though he wasn't immediately clear on what China was attempting to force the U.S. to do. 

Calling the current moment one of "profound international tension" with a weird grin on his face and while claiming the Biden administration predicted all of China's actions in response to Pelosi's visit, Kahl pledged that the Biden administration would "keep our eye on it."

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Despite the stated certainty in the assessment that China would not militarily take Taiwan, Kahl wouldn't confirm or deny that China had fired missiles that flew over Taiwan during its live fire exercises and played a sort of word game about what "over" actually means:

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