PUBLISHED: 13:39, Mon, Nov 2, 2020 | UPDATED: 13:40, Mon, Nov 2, 2020
Tensions over the disputed island have spiked in recent months, with China last month launching military drills which saw jets cross the median strait, a notional maritime border which divides Taiwan from the mainland - but which Beijing now rejects. More recently, during a visit to a military base, China's President Xi Jinping told Chinese Marines to "focus your minds and energy on preparing to go to war".
Dr Oriana Skylar Mastro, Foreign and Defense Policy Fellow at the American Enterprise Institute has warned the US not to "push the envelope" on the issue - or risk triggering a potentially catastrophic conflict.
Dr Mastro issued her chilling assessment during an interview on Washington-based National Public Radio (NPR).
She said: "Taiwan has always been the number one priority. But the military's role in promoting their views on Taiwan have increased this year."
Xi Jinping could take Tsai Ing-wen's Taiwan by force, Dr Mastro warned (Image: GETTY)
Chinese jets crossed the median line earlier this year (Image: GETTY)
China regards Taiwan as part of its territory in accordance with its "One China" policy and has reacted angrily to the US sending officials including Secretary of Health Alex Azar there.
Dr Mastro added: "Xi Jinping almost two years ago gave this speech in which he said that he wanted to see concrete progress towards reunification with Taiwan.
"Now, before, the position of Beijing had always been to prevent independence.
"Now, my view is that this speech basically changed what the standard is.
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Either Donald Trump or Joe Biden will face a challenge going forward, said Dr Mastro (Image: GETTY)
"Now it's not enough for Taiwan not to be independent. They have to be making moves towards reunification.
"And so, more and more, they're using military forms of coercion to get Taiwan there."