China 'taking notes and learning' from Ukraine, says top US admiral in the Pacific

Admiral Paparo also concurred with concern in Canberra over a reported "secret" security pact between China and the Solomon Islands. ST PHOTO: NIRMAL GHOSH

WASHINGTON - The window for potential "unification by force" of Taiwan with China is "highly unpredictable", Admiral Samuel J. Paparo, Commander of the United States' Pacific Fleet, told journalists on Monday (April 4).

China was "undoubtedly... watching what's happened in Ukraine and taking notes and learning from it, and... they will improve their capabilities based on what they learn at this time," he told a group of journalists at a briefing.

"I think the window of a potential unification by force is highly, highly unpredictable," he said. "There's many, many complex factors that would play into a PRC (People's Republic of China) decision to attempt to unify Taiwan by force to the mainland itself. And I think it requires constant vigilance."

Admiral Paparo, who is due to visit Thailand, Singapore and Australia this month, also concurred with concern in Canberra over a reported "secret" security pact between China and the Solomon Islands, which lie less than 2,000km from Australia's Queensland coast.

"Any time that a secret security arrangement makes its way into the light of day, it is a concern - and it's a concern for all of our partners throughout the Western Pacific and notably Australia and New Zealand," he said.

"I always operate under the notion that there's the potential of conflict within our region, within a couple of years, because of the incredible unpredictability of events," the Admiral said, noting that last year, nobody could have predicted the current war in Ukraine.

"Tensions have risen over the last few years, that's clearly evident," he said.

One response to that has been Aukus, the Australia-UK-US security arrangement launched in September 2021, which aims to share nuclear submarine technology with Australia.

"Aukus is a tangible sign of those rising tensions during this time," the Admiral said.

"The rhetoric has been concerning" he said. "And this has driven us to an Aukus, this has driven more and more cooperative deployments."

He added: "I spend every day operating in such a way (as to) demonstrate a certain capability with the intention of deterring open and armed conflict, doing so by building and demonstrating dynamic combat power that can be brought to bear quickly so that the costs of illegitimate aggression far outweigh that which could be gained by it.

"And that is the zenith of deterrence, which is not an activity, but a thing that results when your competitor realises that armed aggression will be met with costs (which) will exceed that which can be gained."

The Admiral also commented on operational engagements with China's naval forces in the region, saying there was professionalism on both sides.

He said: "We do have interaction with PRC forces. When we do, we execute with resolve, with professionalism, with a detached unemotional resolve, to fly, to sail, to operate anywhere that international law allows."

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