The Chinese government is fortifying its military to eventually invade Taiwan in the next two decades, according to the director of the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) China Institute. The comments came after China conducted military drills in Taiwan Strait following a visit by a top US official to Taiwan that riled up Beijing.

Under its One China policy, Beijing would invade the island nation and regain it, Professor Steve Tsang of SOAS China Institute told the Daily Express. It was likely to "punish" Taiwan for its proximity to the United States.

"The Chinese will seek to punish Taiwan because they can't punish Americans. It's not as easy as it appears but they will eventually invade Taiwan. They're building the capacity to do so," Tsang reportedly said.

Explaining that the invasion would likely happen in "next 20 years," Tsang noted that Taiwan could not match China's military strength. "Within the next 20 years, they will have the ability to do so," Tsang said.

Alex Azar's visit to Taiwan
The U.S. Secretary of Health Alex Azar in a meeting with Taiwan's President Tsai Ing Wen Twitter/Tsai Ing-wen

On Thursday, a People's Liberation Army spokesman said China carried out drills at Taiwan Strait to safeguard the region's sovereignty. The announcement came a day after the U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar concluded his four-day visit to Taiwan. He met Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen, Foreign Minister Jaushieh Joseph Wu and Health and Welfare Minister Chen Shih-chung as part of the visit. Azar was the high-ranking American official to visit the island nation since Washington cut ties with Taipei in 1979.

China viewed Azar's visit as a threat to the region's stability and the PLA spokesman – without mentioning the U.S. – said the involvement of major powers with Taiwan send a wrong message to pro-independence forces in the country.

On Wednesday, Taiwan's Representative to the U.S. Hsiao Bi-khim said the country was working with Washington to fortify its asymmetric warfare capabilities by getting cruise missiles and naval mines to tackle China's invasion plans.

Hsiao said the asymmetric capabilities were "cost-effective but lethal enough to become deterrents, to make any consideration of an invasion very painful."