The United States could be at war with China in 2025, a four-star general predicted Friday.

Gen. Michael A. Minihan, the head of Air Mobility Command, said in a memo obtained by NBC News and confirmed by the Washington Post that troops should begin preparing for combat.

“I hope I am wrong,” Minihan, who oversees some 50,000 service members, reportedly wrote in the memo addressed to all air wing commanders and other operational commanders in the Air Force. “My gut tells me we will fight in 2025.”

In his memo, Minihan reportedly noted that Chinese President Xi Jinping secured his third time in October and “set his war council.”

“Taiwan’s presidential elections are in 2024 and will offer Xi a reason. United States’ presidential elections are in 2024 and will offer Xi a distracted America,” Minihan reportedly wrote in the memo.

“Xi’s team, reason, and opportunity are all aligned for 2025.”

Minihan also reportedly directed members of the Air Force to “fire a clip into a 7-meter target with the full understanding that unrepentant lethality matters most” sometime in February and instructed them to “aim for the head.”

“The National Defense Strategy makes clear that China is the pacing challenge for the Department of Defense and our focus remains on working alongside allies and partners to preserve a peaceful, free and open Indo-Pacific,” Brig. Gen. Patrick Ryder, a Pentagon spokesman, said in a statement Friday.

However, a Defense Department official later told NBC News and the Post that Minihan’s comments are “not representative of the department’s view on China.”

In a speech at the meeting of the Chinese Communist Party in October, Xi said that China will “strive for unification” with Taiwan and warned that the country “will never promise to renounce the use of force and we reserve the option of taking all measures necessary.”

“The wheels of history are rolling on towards China’s reunification and the rejuvenation of the Chinese nation. Complete reunification of our country must be realized,” Xi said.

Mainland China and the island of Taiwan, among other islands, were ruled by the Republic of China before the ROC lost the Chinese Civil War in the early 20th century to the Chinese Communist Party, which established the new government of the People’s Republic of China in October 1949.

The ROC in turn established a temporary capital in Taipei on the island of Taiwan, a former Japanese territory, in December 1949 and served as the seat for China at the United Nations until it was replaced by the People’s Republic of China in 1971 as foreign countries switched their diplomatic relations.

China views Taiwan and its 23 million residents as a wayward province and has vowed to retake it by force, if necessary. Many supporters of Taiwan have since argued that it is an independent sovereign state separate from mainland China, which has never controlled Taiwan.

In August, a trip by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to Taiwan sparked a military response from the Chinese government, which then conducted daily drills, including conducting a possible simulated attack and launching several ballistic missiles into waters near Taiwan.

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said during a news conference earlier this month that Chinese forces had made “very provocative behavior” but added that he doubted China would invade Taiwan any time soon.

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