A top US intelligence official has warned that the danger of military confrontation in the Taiwan Strait is one of the most worrying potential threats facing the US in coming years.
Thomas Fingar, the deputy director of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, made the comment on Wednesday in testimony before a hearing of the House Armed Services Committee on the US intelligence community's annual assessment of global threats to US security.
"The danger of [the situation in the Strait] spinning out of control is real," Fingar said.
Asked by committee members about the biggest potential threats to US security, the intelligence analyst cited global terrorism as the top danger.
Beyond that threat, Fingar said, "in terms of conventional military threats, I think the greatest danger is one of misperception, miscalculation or escalation of regional conflicts."
"To be more specific," Fingar said, singling out Taiwan, danger could stem from "miscalculation by any of the parties involved in watching the Taiwan Strait situation -- by Taiwan, by the mainland, their perceptions of what we may or may not do."
He said that the danger could come from "judgments about what anticipatory or pre-emptive actions may be necessary in order to deter one or the other of the parties. The danger of that spinning out of control is real."
On a broader level, aside from terrorism, Fingar said, China's military buildup is the largest potential threat.
"Improvements in China's theater range missile capability will put US forces at greater risk from conventional weapons. In addition, Beijing seeks to modernize China's strategic nuclear force to address concerns about the survivability of those systems," Fingar said.
"If present trends in global development of China's space capabilities continue ... China will have an increasing ability to target US military, intelligence and navigational satellites to degrade our command and control systems and our ability to use effectively our precision weapons systems," he said.
In a lengthy written statement presented to the committee, Fingar mentioned Taiwan's presidential election and planned referendums on UN membership.
In this, he echoed his boss, Michael McConnell, the director of national intelligence, who testified on the annual assessment to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence last week.
Fingar's statement, like McConnell's, said that President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) "is seeking to affirm Taiwan's sovereignty and separate identity from the mainland."
Fingar also said that China's leaders "say they are prepared for military contingencies and have occasionally cited Beijing's 2005 `Anti-Secession' Law, which authorized the use of force if Beijing's leaders deem it necessary."