The Wall Street Journal reported on Thursday that roughly 24 United States troops have been stationed on Taiwan this past year. Their presence was announced by officials on Thursday after renewed tensions between the nations came to the fore last week when China flew roughly 150 military aircraft over Taiwan.
The troops, which are comprised of a group of Marines and a special-operations unit, have been in Taiwan since at least last year. The deployment of troops in Taiwan signals the U.S.’ concern that China may invade Taiwan at any moment.
The Marines currently stationed there have been working to train the local military members in small-boat operations, while the special-operation forces have been working with people on the ground.
The current state of the U.S.’ military in Taiwan will most definitely upset China — which maintains that Taiwan is under its control — but the relatively small number of troops will probably also hold off any larger retaliation for now.
The Asian media had been guessing that American troops were present in Taiwan as early as last year, but could not prove those statements until now.
The Trump administration has also declassified that U.S.’ Stategic Framework for the indo-Pacifc, a document that reveals the country’s strategy for the area.
Marines in Taiwan bolsters country’s defense against China
Christopher Maier, who recently became the Assistant Secretary of Defense for special operations, told senators in May that American special-operations units could show forces in Taiwan how to defend against an amphibious landing or train for dozens of other operations needed to defend the island.
“I do think that is something that we should be considering strongly as we think about competition across the span of different capabilities we can apply,” said Maier, speaking about their capabilities.
A Pentagon spokesman said that the Taiwan Relations Act passed by Congress in 1979 states that the law provides for review of Taiwan’s defense needs as well as any threat established by the People’s Republic of China.
“I would note the PRC has stepped up efforts to intimidate and pressure Taiwan, including increasing military activities conducted in the vicinity of Taiwan, which we believe are destabilizing and increase the risk of miscalculation,” the spokesman, John Supple, said.
Tawain has hinted an alliance with the U.S. after selling the country billions of dollars of military hardware in the recent past, but officials are saying that these recent moves mark a more serious investment in its defense by the country.
“Taiwan badly neglected its national defense for the first 15 years or so of this century, buying too much expensive equipment that will get destroyed in the first hours of a conflict, and too little in the way of cheaper but lethal systems — antiship missiles, smart sea mines and well-trained reserve and auxiliary forces — that could seriously complicate Beijing’s war plans,” said Matt Pottinger, a distinguished visiting fellow at Stanford University’s conservative Hoover Institution, who worked as an adviser to Trump during his presidency.