A top US general has reportedly warned his colleagues about the likelihood of a major military showdown with China in the coming two years.
Mike Minihan, a four-star Air Force general and head of the US Air Mobility Command (AMC), has issued the most dramatic forecast yet by a senior US military officer, predicting the two superpowers could come to blows in 2025.
He made the unsettling call in a memo addressed to all air wing commanders and other Air Force personnel under his command, warning that a series of circumstances could embolden Chinese President Xi Jinping to make a move against Taiwan, triggering a heated conflict.
"I hope I am wrong. My gut tells me we will fight in 2025," he wrote.
The memo, which was sent on Friday (local time), was seen by NBC and The Financial Times.
According to NBC, the general ordered his personnel to ready themselves and said his soldiers could be called upon to provide "a fortified, ready, integrated, and agile Joint Force Manoeuvre Team ready to fight and win inside the first island chain", referring to the first chain of major Pacific archipelagos east of the Chinese coast.
General Minihan argued the US presidential election in 2024 will provide a window for Xi Jinping to move against Taiwan while the US is "distracted" and there is uncertainty around the potential transition of power. The communication also noted the Chinese leader's recent reshuffling of his "war council" in October when Xi Jinping secured a third term and the Chinese Communist Party's politburo was reshaped.
"Xi’s team, reason, and opportunity are all aligned for 2025," he argued.
The memo did not hold back with General Minihan directing all AMC troops to undertake firing practice "with the full understanding that unrepentant lethality matters most. Aim for the head," he wrote.
According to NBC, it also ordered service personnel to update their records and emergency contacts ensuring they are "legally ready and prepared".
When contacted by the Financial Times, the Pentagon and White House did not comment on reports of the memo but a US Defence official told the publication that General Minihan's words were "not representative of the department’s view on China".
It's certainly not the first time a senior US military official has made such a prediction. In October, Admiral Mike Gilday, chief of naval operations, said the US must be prepared to potentially defend Taiwan as early as this year.
"When we talk about the 2027 window, in my mind that has to be a 2022 window or potentially a 2023 window," he told the Atlantic Council.
Speaking to the Financial Times, former Indo-Pacific command adviser Eric Sayers admitted the memo's contents were stark and confronting but said such communication was not intended for the public and did not amount to a sophisticated intelligence assessment of the likelihood of conflict.
However he also noted General Minihan, who previously served as deputy head of the Indo-Pacific Command, has been at the "tip of the spear" in the region for more than a decade and understood the China threat "better than almost anyone in uniform".
Australian Opposition leader Peter Dutton has previously said it was "inconceivable" that Australia wouldn't join the US if fighting broke out with China over the Taiwan issue.
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