The United States has kept a small contingent of military trainers in Taiwan secret for at least a year, according to a new report, the latest sign of the stakes in the rivalry between the United States and China.
Approximately two dozen U.S. special forces soldiers and an unspecified number of Marines are training Taiwanese forces, the Wall street journal reported Thursday. The coaches were first dispatched to Taiwan by the Trump administration, but their presence had not been reported until now.
US troops have not been permanently based on the island since 1979, when Washington established diplomatic relations with the People’s Republic of China.
A Pentagon spokesman, John Supple, declined to comment directly on the report, but noted that “our advocacy and support relationship with Taiwan remains aligned against the current threat” from China.
China’s Foreign Ministry issued a statement urging the United States to stop military aid to Taiwan.
“China will take all necessary measures to protect its sovereignty and territorial integrity,” the statement said.
“It is an important step, but its main objective is not to be provocative, but to improve the defense capacity of the Taiwanese forces,” said Jacob Stokes, a fellow in the Indo-Pacific security program at the Center for a New American Security.
“There is always this balance between symbolism and substance, and I think doing it silently is intended to make it more substantial.”
The report of a US military presence in Taiwan comes after a series of signs of escalation in the Indo-Pacific. China flew nearly 150 military aircraft, including bombers and fighter jets, to Taiwan’s air defense zone during the first four days of October.
Talking to the BBC a day after meeting with senior Chinese diplomat Yang Jiechi, US national security adviser Jake Sullivan said the United States was deeply concerned about rising tensions in the region.
“We are going to stand up and speak, both in private and in public when we see the kinds of activities that are fundamentally destabilizing,” Sullivan told the BBC.
When asked if the United States was prepared to take military action to defend Taiwan, Sullivan said, “Let me say this, we are going to take action now to try to prevent that day from happening.”
Sullivan also said it would be a “huge mistake” to draw conclusions about the United States’ engagement with its allies on the basis of its recent withdrawal from Afghanistan.
On Thursday, the CIA confirmed that it would create a new “mission center” to prioritize intelligence gathering on China.
In announcing the reorganization, the agency’s director, William Burns, called the Chinese government “the most important geopolitical threat we face in the 21st century.”
“Throughout our history, the CIA has stepped forward to meet any challenge that comes our way,” Burns said. “And now that we face our toughest geopolitical test in a new era of great power rivalry, the CIA will be at the forefront of this effort.”
The separate mission centers created by the Trump administration in Iran and North Korea will dissolve into broader regional sections.
The state department has taken similar steps, establishing an expanded specialized office, informally known as the chinese house, as part of the Biden administration’s broader shift toward Asia.
According to the Wall Street Journal report, coaches in Taiwan come and go, so it does not represent a permanent presence. There have been reports of US military advisers there over the years, but Julian Ku, a law professor at Hofstra University, said the significant factor in Thursday’s report is the apparent confirmation from US officials.
“It is an open secret that they have been doing training exercises here and there, but it is very important to acknowledge them publicly,” Ku said.
“I don’t know what the benefit of that is. The Chinese government knows what is happening. We are not telling them, we are just telling the Chinese public, which will then put pressure on the government to do something. “
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism