Milley: US 'absolutely' could defend Taiwan from China

The U.S. military "absolutely" could defend Taiwan from a potential Chinese attack if asked to do so, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Mark MilleyMark MilleyBiden to attend services for Bob Dole To advance democracy, defend Taiwan and Ukraine Overnight Defense & National Security — Preparing for the Biden-Putin call MORE said Wednesday.

Speaking at the Aspen Security Forum, Milley said he did not expect China to attempt to seize the self-governing island in the next 24 months, but should it happen, U.S. forces “absolutely have the capability” to defend Taipei, “no question about that.”

He also allowed that Beijing is “clearly and unambiguously building the capability to provide those options to the national leadership if they so choose at some point in the future.”

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"Near future, probably not, but anything can happen," he added in an interview conducted by NBC News’s Lester Holt.

China in the past several months has amped up its provocations against the island it sees as a rogue territory, flying warplanes into its air identification zone 150 times over the course of about four days in early October.

The aggression has been a critical flashpoint amid the ongoing poor relations between Washington and Beijing, with top Taiwanese and American officials worried about an eventual military confrontation.

Milley on Wednesday stressed the long-held U.S. stance of “strategic ambiguity” when it comes to Taiwan, saying that it would be up to the White House to decide whether to intervene if China sought control of the island.

The Pentagon’s top officer also touched on the recent Chinese hypersonic missile test over the summer, saying that it points to one of the most significant global power shifts since the World Wars.

Milley, who last week said the missile development is “very close” to another "Sputnik moment," said the world is now “witnessing one of the largest shifts in global geo-strategic power.”

--Updated at 2:00 p.m.