US special operations forces have been quietly training Taiwanese soldiers for months, risking the ire of China, a US Department of Defense official said on Thursday.
A contingent of about 20 special operations and conventional forces has been conducting the training for less than a year, said the official, who declined to be identified, adding that some of the instructors rotate in and out.
The official largely confirmed a Wall Street Journal report that said a US special operations unit and a contingent of US Marines have been secretly training military forces in Taiwan to help shore up the nation’s defenses, as concerns mount over potential Chinese aggression.
In Taipei, the Ministry of National Defense yesterday declined to comment on the Wall Street Journal report, and the American Institute in Taiwan, the US’ de facto embassy in the nation, only referred to the US Department of Defense without commenting further.
Premier Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) said “a just cause always attracts much support.”
“We are making every effort to defend our national sovereignty and our people, as well as maintaining regional peace. We are doing all we can and we appreciate like-minded countries working together,” he said.
Pentagon spokesman John Supple said that generally speaking, US support for Taiwan’s military is gauged on its defense needs.
Supple declined to comment on the specifics of the report, but said that the US’ support for Taiwan remains “strong, principled and bipartisan,” in line with the US’ “one China” policy and longstanding commitments, as stated in the Taiwan Relations Act, the Three Joint Communiques and the “six assurances.”
“Our support for and defense relationship with Taiwan remains aligned against the current threat posed by the People’s Republic of China,” Supple said in a statement.
“We urge Beijing to honor its commitment to the peaceful resolution of cross-Strait differences,” he added.
The US would continue to support a peaceful resolution of cross-strait issues, consistent with the wishes and best interests of the people on both sides, he said.
In November last year, local media reported that US troops had arrived in the nation to train Taiwanese marines and special forces in small-boat and amphibious operations.
Those reports were subsequently denied by US and Taiwanese officials, who said that the two sides are only involved in bilateral military exchanges and cooperation.
The US supplies weapons to Taiwan, including missiles for defense and fighter jets, amid Beijing’s threat to forcibly annex the nation.
The US also maintains an ambiguous commitment to defend Taiwan.
Additional reporting by CNA and Lin Chia-nan
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