The United States is aware “as a matter of intelligence” that Chinese leader Xi Jinping has ordered his military to be prepared to invade Taiwan by 2027, CIA Director William Burns said on Thursday.
Burns said that Xi’s order to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) military may not represent his timeline for the CCP’s invasion of Taiwan, but it demonstrates his “seriousness” in pursuing this goal.
“Our assessment at CIA is that I wouldn’t underestimate President Xi’s ambitions with regard to Taiwan,” Burns said at an event at Georgetown University in Washington.
Burns said he believes that Xi was likely “unsettled” by the Russian military’s performance in the Ukraine war and that he likely tried to evaluate the effectiveness of Russia’s weapons systems in Ukraine for his ambition toward Taiwan.
The CIA chief also warned against underestimating the motivation behind the China-Russia “no limits partnership” declared last year.
“I think it’s a mistake to underestimate the mutual commitment to that partnership, but it’s not a friendship totally without limits,” Burns noted.
China has refrained from condemning Russia for its invasion of Ukraine, citing Russia’s “legitimate concerns on security issues” as justification. In February 2022, the two nations declared a “no limits” partnership.
According to their joint statement, Russia said it recognized Taiwan as “an inalienable part of China” and rejected Taiwan’s independence “in any form,” while the CCP backed Russia’s opposition to the enlargement of NATO.
Taiwan has been a self-governing democracy since the Chinese civil war ended in 1949. Still, the CCP regards Taiwan as a breakaway province that must be united with mainland China by any means necessary.
Chinese incursions into Taiwan have occurred almost daily as the CCP has increased military pressure on the self-ruled island. Taiwan’s military detected 23 Chinese aircraft and four vessels on Feb. 2, with 17 of the aircraft crossing the Taiwan Strait’s median line.
Taiwanese Foreign Minister Joseph Wu said on Jan. 18 that China is “more likely” to make a move against Taiwan in 2027 as he believed that Xi might see aggression against Taiwan as a way to leave a legacy from his third term in office.
“In 2027, Xi Jinping is likely to go into his fourth term. And if in his previous three terms, he cannot claim any achievement during his office, he might need to think about something else for him to claim as his achievement or his legacy,” Wu said in an interview with Sky News.
Suspected CCP Spy Balloon
Burns said that China represents the “biggest geopolitical challenge” to the United States, and that global competition with the CCP could be “more intense” than it was with the Soviet Union.
“Competition with China is unique in its scale, and that it really, you know, unfolds over just about every domain, not just military, and ideological, but economic, technological, everything from cyberspace, to space itself as well,” he said.
Separately, the U.S. Department of Defense announced on Thursday that it had been monitoring a suspected Chinese surveillance balloon that had been hovering over the continental United States.
The balloon was detected over Montana on Wednesday. Pentagon press secretary Air Force Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder said the U.S. authorities “acted immediately” to protect against the collection of sensitive information, but he did not elaborate.
A senior defense official said the U.S. government has communicated with the CCP regime about the issue “with urgency.” It also appears that this is not the first time such a balloon has been seen above the United States.
“Currently, we assess that this balloon has limited additive value from an intelligence collective collection perspective,” the official said, according to the DOD. “But we are taking steps, nevertheless, to protect against foreign intelligence collection of sensitive information.”
The U.S. authorities decided not to shoot down the balloon and instead allowed it to keep floating over the country following recommendations from defense officials.
“We did assess that it was large enough to cause damage from the debris field if we downed it over an area,” the official said. “I can’t really go into the dimension—but there have been reports of pilots seeing this thing, even though it’s pretty high up in the sky. So … it’s sizable.”
Reuters contributed to this report. Article cross-posted from The Epoch Times.
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