US Special Forces and Marines have been secretly training Taiwanese forces for at least a year, US media reported Thursday.
“A US special operations unit and a contingent of Marines have been secretly operating in Taiwan to train military forces there,” The Wall Street Journal reported, citing unnamed American officials, adding the deployment is “part of efforts to shore up the island’s defenses as concern regarding potential Chinese aggression mounts.”
The report comes amid soaring tensions as China has sent warplanes nearly 150 times into Taiwan’s air defense identification zone (ADIZ) in the past few days.
The ADIZ is a buffer zone outside a country’s airspace where it has the right to ask incoming aircraft to identify themselves.
China claims Taiwan as a “breakaway province” while Taipei has insisted on its independence since 1949 and has diplomatic relations with at least 15 countries.
The report said around two dozen US special operations forces and support troops are “conducting training for small units of Taiwan’s ground forces.”
“The U.S. Marines are working with local maritime forces on small-boat training. The American forces have been operating in Taiwan for at least a year,” the US officials told the American daily.
Last November, Taipei announced the arrival of US Marines to train Taiwanese soldiers. It marked the first time since the US and Taiwan cut bilateral ties in 1979 that American soldiers had returned to the island.
The US formally recognized the People's Republic of China in 1979 and shifted diplomatic relations from Taipei to Beijing, including Taiwan as part of mainland China.
Taiwan's Naval Command had said a contingent of US marines -- Marine Raiders -- arrived at the invitation of Taiwan's military to train Taiwanese troops for four weeks starting Nov. 11 last year.
The US Marines were also put under quarantine for around two weeks to avoid coronavirus infection.
American soldiers would train their Taiwanese counterparts in assault boat and speedboat infiltration operations at the Tsoying Naval Base in the port city of Kaohsiung in southern Taiwan.
“The US special operations deployment is a sign of concern within the Pentagon over Taiwan’s tactical capabilities in light of Beijing’s years long military buildup and recent threatening moves against the island,” said The Wall Street Journal.
Chiu Kuo-cheng, Taiwan’s defense minister and a former military general, warned on Wednesday that China “would be able to launch a full-scale attack on Taiwan with minimal losses by 2025.”
Under the previous US administration of Donald Trump, the US sold billions of dollars worth of arms to Taipei to “bolster Taiwan’s defense against Chinese aggression.”/agencies