China’s military is perilously close to being able to launch a surprise offensive against Taiwan, the commander of the U.S. Pacific fleet has warned.

Adm. Samuel Paparo, whom President Joe Biden has nominated as the next head of the Indo-Pacific Command, said the U.S. military will need to leverage innovations like machine learning and drone swarming technology to get a “stare instead of a blink” on China’s military movements.

U.S. intelligence said last year Chinese leader Xi Jinping had ordered the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) to be ready to invade Taiwan by 2027. Many U.S. analysts have said Chinese preparations for war with Taiwan would likely be obvious months, if not a years, before any attack. However, former senior CIA intelligence analyst John Culver warned the potential for a smaller-scale campaign against outlying islands just off the Chinese coast, like Kinmen, is often overlooked.

In spite of a range of domestic headwinds facing Beijing, from a cooling economy to corruption at the highest levels of its military, the Chinese authorities “are undaunted in their ambitions for their excessive claims or their desire to coerce—if not effect—through the use of force its ambitions, notably in the West Pacific but worldwide,” Paparo said at a summit hosted by the Department of Defense’s Defense Innovation Unit earlier this month.

China claims Taiwan as its territory despite the fact the Chinese Communist Party government in Beijing has never ruled on the island. In the South China Sea, Beijing’s sweeping territorial claims have pitted China against an increasingly assertive Philippines, a U.S. Mutual Defense Treaty ally.

Paparo warned China’s capacity to project force in nearby waters is fast approaching a juncture where the PLA could pivot from a large-scale exercise to a major offensive with little notice.

“Just in the last three years, step-level changes in the [Chinese military] force levels, the jointness of those force levels, the rehearsals that are apparent to the joint force and raising the threshold of warning to the point where soon we’ll be at a point where a force sufficient to execute a profound military operation is in the field and operating under a fig leaf of exercise,” he said.