China continues to test and harass Taiwan’s air defense capability with nearly daily forays into Taiwanese airspace. Tensions between China and Taiwan which the Chinese consider a wayward province, and the United States continue to rise. Now, it was reported that U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM) troops are in Taiwan training Taiwanese troops.
For the past seven decades, Taiwan has considered itself an independent country.
China has never ruled out taking Taiwan by force and its aircraft have continuously buzzed over Taiwanese airspace.
The Wall Street Journal was the first to report that about two dozen special operations troops and support personnel were in Taiwan along with a small Marine contingent training the host nation forces. This is a significant development as China’s aggressive actions increasingly look like a prelude to open war. According to an unnamed Pentagon official, the training by the U.S. has been ongoing for more than a year.
The Pentagon would neither confirm nor deny any troop deployments or training in Taiwan. Pentagon spokesman John Supple said, “I don’t have any comments on specific operations, engagements, or training, but I would like to highlight that our support for and defense relationship with Taiwan remains aligned against the current threat posed by the People’s Republic of China.”
Taiwan’s Defense Ministry sidestepped any training comments, stating that “all military exchanges are carried out in accordance with annual plans”.
Last year, Taiwanese media outlets reported that U.S. troops had arrived there to train Taiwanese marines and Special Forces in small-boat and amphibious operations. However, those reports were denied by both American and Taiwanese officials, who stressed that the two countries are only involved in bilateral military exchanges and cooperation.
A video surfaced last year showing U.S. troops on the island taking part in an exercise dubbed “Balance Tamper.”
The Chinese Foreign Ministry said that the United States needs to cease all cooperation with and arms sales to Taiwan. Spokesman Zhao Lijian said that the already tense relations between the U.S. and China will suffer.
“The U.S. side should fully recognize the great sensitivity of the Taiwan issue,” he said during a press conference.
“China will take all necessary measures to protect its sovereignty and territorial integrity,” Lijian added.
U.S. Congressman Ami Bera (D-CA) confirmed that special operations deployments have been ongoing for more than a year. Bera, who sits on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, was asked by the press at a defense conference if the Committee was aware of this present SOF Deployment.
“Not particularly this deployment, if I call it a deployment. I think we have special operators and others there, and we have in the past that are there training (Taiwan’s) military, working with them,” Bera replied.
Meanwhile the Chinese have stepped up their aggressive, and dangerous forays into Taiwan’s airspace. On Monday, 52 Chinese aircraft entered Taiwan’s air defense zone. The action was characterized by U.S. State Department spokesman Ned Price as “destabilizing and provocative.”
“We strongly urge Beijing to cease its military, diplomatic and economic pressure and coercion against Taiwan,” Price said, calling the American commitment to the island “rock-solid.”