A congressional panel on Wednesday called for "urgent measures" to strengthen U.S. military deterrence in the Indo-Pacific against any risk of Chinese aggression against Taiwan, warning of increasing potential for a "military crisis."
The annual report by the bipartisan U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission also suggested that Japan, a close U.S. ally that possesses "highly professional" defense forces, will have a key security role to play in a possible Taiwan contingency.
"Cross-Strait deterrence is in a period of dangerous uncertainty," the commission said in the paper, noting that "improvements in China's military capabilities have fundamentally transformed the strategic environment."
"China's increasingly coercive approach to Taiwan puts almost daily pressure on the cross-Strait status quo and increases the potential for a military crisis," it added.
To resist any resort to force that would jeopardize the security of the self-ruled democratic island, the panel urged Congress to authorize and fund the deployment of "large numbers" of anti-ship cruise and ballistic missiles in the Indo-Pacific as well as efforts for better surveillance and reconnaissance in the East and South China seas.
It also recommended funding the requests of the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command for "hardening U.S. bases in the region," including through robust missile defense.
The annual report came as concerns are growing over China's increasing military pressure on Taiwan, such as by sending a large number of military planes into the island's air defense identification zone.
The commission said China's People's Liberation Army now "either has or is close to achieving an initial capability to invade Taiwan" and will continue to develop its capabilities to enhance Chinese leaders' confidence that it can successfully execute an invasion campaign.
But it also said "cross-Strait deterrence still holds today" because Chinese leaders remain deeply concerned about the risks and consequences of military aggression, such as a possible destabilization of trade flows and supply chains.
A failed attack attempt could also undermine the Chinese Communist Party's legitimacy, the report said.
Taiwan and mainland China have been separately governed since they split as a result of a civil war in 1949. Beijing views Taiwan as a renegade province to be reunified with the mainland, by force if necessary.
The United States switched its diplomatic recognition from Taipei to Beijing in 1979. But Washington continues to have substantive, though unofficial, relations with Taiwan and supplies the island with arms to maintain sufficient self-defense capabilities.
The report said U.S. military bases in Japan could be subject to a "preemptive attack" by China in a war against Taiwan as part of efforts to delay American military intervention.
Noting that American troops deploying from the west coast of the United States are expected to need three weeks of transit to conduct operations west of Guam, the report said, "U.S. forces based in Japan would have a significantly shorter response time but may be hindered by early or preemptive missile strikes."
For a preemptive attack on U.S. forces in Japan, the PLA has demonstrated its ability to strike nearly every U.S. ship in port, more than 200 U.S. aircraft on the ground, and all major fixed headquarters, logistics facilities and runways in U.S. airbases, the report said.
But it noted that "uncertainty about the PLA's ability to prevail in a war over Taiwan would become even more acute if the United States successfully persuades key allies, such as Japan, to join military operations against China."
Japan's Self-Defense Forces are "equipped with modern hardware and intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance capabilities," and Japanese leaders are showing that they are "deeply concerned about a crisis in the Taiwan Strait and could act with the United States to bolster deterrence," the commission said.
It also mentioned Australia as another key ally signaling concerns about the potential for Chinese aggression toward Taiwan. The country has recently formed a security partnership with Britain and the United States called the AUKUS, which will help Canberra build a fleet of nuclear-powered submarines.