The startling conclusion from the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission comes at a particularly fraught time for security in and around Taiwan.
The Chinese military has now or will soon have the ability to invade Taiwan, a U.S. government agency has concluded, documenting also failed attempts by China and the U.S. to better understand one another's intentions.
The People's Liberation Army, China's name for its military, is capable of landing at least 25,000 troops on the island nation to establish an initial beachhead, according to the newly released annual report from the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission, a congressionally appointed agency designed to provide specific and nonpartisan national security and economic advice to Congress and the president.
"They're giving all the signs this is an option they're considering to be viable," former Republican Sen. Jim Talent of Missouri, now a member of the commission, told reporters Wednesday morning following the release of this year's report.
Further complicating existing U.S. efforts to deter China from seizing control of Taiwan by force are new tactics the PLA has employed that offset some of the U.S. military's potency in the region. The report documents that the Chinese military has trained with barges, ferries and other civilian vessels to transport military troops across the Taiwan Straits or elsewhere – in addition to more conventional military transports.
"Given these deployments, it has become less certain that U.S. conventional military forces alone will continue to deter China's leaders from initiating an attack on Taiwan," the report concludes.
The new assessment comes at a particularly fraught time for Taiwan, a democracy formally recognized only by a shrinking number of minor nations. China, which has used economic and diplomatic pressure to isolate Taipei internationally, considers its government illegitimate and the island nothing more than a rogue territory of the mainland.
Concerns about military action have spiked in recent months following U.S. and Taiwanese assessments that a Chinese bid to retake control of the island by force could take place within years. China has also expressed outrage at growing U.S. willingness to acknowledge the presence of American military trainers in Taiwan.
Though the current U.S. administration policies focus on overtures to Beijing, President Joe Biden fueled Chinese paranoia of U.S. support for formal Taiwanese independence during remarks he made during a high-profile video summit with Chinese President Xi Jinping on Monday. Biden later clarified, "We are not encouraging independence" – in keeping with decades-old U.S.-China policy – but not before Chinese state media blasted the original comments as "a dangerous sign."