Friday, February 24, 2023 – The US is planning to increase the number of US troops training Taiwanese forces on the self-governing island in the coming months,
It comes after Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen told a visiting bipartisan US congressional delegation on Tuesday, February 21 that the two militaries will cooperate “even more closely” and plan to “bolster military exchanges.”
An increase in the number of US troops in Taiwan could increase tensions with China according to the Wall Street Journal who released the report.
China has watched in recent months as the US has strengthened its posture around the island, bolstering forces in nearby Okinawa and Guam. In response, China accused the US of undermining peace and stability in the region.
The friction extends beyond the Indo-Pacific. This week, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said China may provide Russia with lethal support for its war in Ukraine. China’s foreign ministry fired back that the US and NATO were smearing China.
But China has always viewed Taiwan as a red line, arguing that the island must be reunited with the Chinese mainland even if by force.
In 2021, the Taiwanese president acknowledged that there were US military personnel on the island at the time but said it was “not as many as people thought,” adding that Taipei has a “a wide range of cooperation with the US aiming at increasing our defense capability.”
According to Defense Department data, the US has had between 20 and 40 troops based in Taiwan in recent years. Most are Marines, who are tasked with embassy and diplomatic security at the de facto US embassy, the American Institute in Taiwan. The US does not have an official embassy in Taiwan since it does not recognize the island as an independent nation.
Last summer, Taiwanese troops took part in the Northern Strike exercise led by the Michigan National Guard. The annual two-week exercise was conducted in August at Camp Grayling, just days after then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi visited the democratically-governed territory, sparking an angry reaction from China, including a military show of force around the island.
Following the Wall Street Journal report, Pentagon press secretary Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder released a statement but refused to comment on the plans to expand training of Taiwanese forces.
“We don’t have a comment on specific operations, engagements, or training, but I would highlight that our support for, and defense relationship with, Taiwan remains aligned against the current threat posed by the People’s Republic of China,” Ryder said in a statement.