Washington, May 2 (CNA) China could use force to push Taiwan into unification or into unification dialogue, the United States Department of Defense said in its annual military report, which was issued Thursday.
In the 2019 report submitted to the U.S. Congress, the Pentagon said China is likely to pursue a measured approach by demonstrating its readiness to use force or take punitive actions against Taiwan.
"The PLA (People's Liberation Army) could also conduct a more comprehensive campaign designed to force Taiwan to capitulate to unification, or unification dialogue, under China's terms," said the Pentagon report, which focuses on military and security development involving China.
According to the report, Taiwan remains the PLA's main strategic direction and serves as one of the geographic areas the Chinese government identifies as having strategic importance.
"China's overall strategy toward Taiwan continues to incorporate elements of both persuasion and coercion to hinder the development of political attitudes in Taiwan favoring independence," the Pentagon said in the paper.
To force Taiwan into unification or unification dialogue, China is likely to employ an air and missile campaign against Taiwan, the report said.
"China could use missile attacks and precision air strikes against air defense systems, including air bases, radar sites, missiles, space assets, and communications facilities, to degrade Taiwan's defenses, neutralize Taiwan's leadership, or break the Taiwan people's resolve," the report said.
Taiwan has much smaller military capabilities than China, and the gap is growing, the Pentagon report said.
According to its estimate, China has 2,600 fighter jets, including 1,100 fighter trainers, while Taiwan has only 450 fighter jets in total.
China also has special mission aircraft, 450 transport planes, 450 bombers and 150 special mission aircraft, while Taiwan deploys only 30 transport planes and 30 special mission aircraft and has no bombers, the Pentagon said.
It said that while China speaks of peaceful unification with Taiwan, the Chinese government has never given up the use of force as an option, and continues to develop and deploy advanced military capabilities, paving the way for a potential military campaign to increase the pressure on Taipei.
Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) said in a speech on Jan. 2 that China is willing to talk with any party in Taiwan to push forward the process of peaceful unification on the basis of the "one China principle," but said he was making no promises to "renounce the use of force and reserved the option of taking all necessary means" to achieve that end.
In its report, the Pentagon said that in the event of a protracted conflict, China might resort to escalating cyberspace, space, or nuclear activities.
Alternatively, China might choose to fight to a standstill and pursue a political solution, the report said.
The Pentagon said the U.S. supports a peaceful resolution of China-Taiwan issues, and under the Taiwan Relations Act (TRA), will contribute to peace, security, and stability in the Taiwan Strait by providing defense articles and services to help Taiwan maintain adequate self-defense capability.
According to the Pentagon, Washington has announced more than US$15 billion in arms sales to Taiwan since 2010.
The TRA was signed in April 1979 by then U.S. President Jimmy Carter, a few months after the U.S. switched diplomatic recognition from Taipei to Beijing.