The Chinese government made a decision some years ago to seek to "speed up" the reunification with Taiwan, including through the possible use of force, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a recent TV interview.
The U.S. assessment of the timing of a potential attack by China against Taiwan has drawn renewed attention after Blinken said Monday, two days before the interview, that he believed Beijing was "determined to pursue reunification on a much faster timeline."
In March last year, Adm. Philip Davidson, then chief of the U.S. military's Indo-Pacific Command, said China could try to invade Taiwan "in the next six years," or by around 2027.
Blinken said that, on the Taiwan issue, there had been a "basic understanding" for many years that "whatever differences existed between Beijing and Taiwan would be resolved peacefully."
"What changed is this: a decision that was made in Beijing some years ago that that was no longer acceptable and that the government wanted to speed up the reunification," he said.
Beijing is willing to pursue the goal "through coercion and pressure and potentially, if necessary, by force," Blinken added during Wednesday's interview in Pennsylvania, the transcript of which was released by the State Department on Thursday.
Taiwan and mainland China have been separately governed since they split due to a civil war in 1949. China has endeavored to bring the self-ruled democratic island back into its fold.
At a speech at the Chinese Communist Party's twice-a-decade congress, which began Sunday, President Xi Jinping said China will not renounce the use of force over the Taiwan issue, although it will seek a peaceful resolution.
On Wednesday, top U.S. Navy officer Adm. Michael Gilday said an analysis of what came out of the congress is still ongoing but warned that the military should be vigilant over the possibility of China invading Taiwan at any time.
"So 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," the chief of naval operations told a think tank event. "I don't mean at all to be alarmist by saying that. It's just that we can't wish that away."
On Friday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin expressed Beijing's opposition to "the U.S. manipulation" of the Taiwan issue, saying it is "purely China's internal affairs, which brook no foreign interference."
"We believe countries and people concerned have the wisdom to make the right choices that serve their interest," he said at a press conference in Beijing.
Tensions have grown over Taiwan following China's increased military activities in the area in response to an August visit to the island by U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the third-highest elected official in the United States.