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Chinese state media chief calls for war with US over troop numbers in Taiwan

Taiwanese military salute array fires a 21-gun salute. (Photo by Qi Yongming, Voice of America/Released)
August 17, 2021

Hu Xijin, the editor-in-chief of the Chinese state-run Global Times, tweeted a call for war after Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) mistakenly tweeted that there are 30,000 U.S. troops currently stationed in Taiwan.

In a now-deleted tweet sent on Tuesday, Cornyn said, “US Troops Today in: South Korea – 28,000; Germany – 35,486; Japan – 50,000; Taiwan – 30,000; Africa – 7,000; Afghanistan (month or 2 ago) – 2,500.” Responding to Cornyn’s post, Hu tweeted, “Now, the US and the Taiwan authorities must explain. If it is true that the US has 30,000, or less than that number, soldiers stationed on the Taiwan island, Chinese military forces will immediately launch a war to eliminate and expel the US soldiers.”

According to Taiwan News, Cornyn’s tweet was a mistake and the island has not had any U.S. military presence since 1979.

Taiwan News speculated the 30,000 U.S. troops described in Cornyn’s now-deleted tweet actually referred to the U.S. troop presence in Taiwan during the Vietnam War in the 60s and 70s. The Taiwanese news outlet reported Cornyn may have obtained the number from a Wikipedia page on the United States Taiwan Defense Command, which operated from Dec. 1954 to April 1979 and had 30,000 combined U.S. military personnel at its peak.

Cornyn’s office did not immediately respond to an American Military News request for comment on the matter.

While Taiwan News offered a possible explanation for Cornyn’s now-deleted tweeted, Hu expressed doubts and suggested Cornyn was not mistaken but is actually testing the PRC’s response.

“Someone said that @JohnCornyn mistook that number by using the number of previous US troops stationed on Taiwan island before China and the US set up diplomatic relations,” Hu tweeted. “I think the senator is not confused, and he wants to test our response. My answer to him is war.”

While Taiwan governs itself as an independent nation, China maintains a claim of sovereignty over the island. The U.S. first described the sovereignty dispute between China and Taiwan in the 1972 Shanghai Communique, stating, “The United States acknowledges that all Chinese on either side of the Taiwan Strait maintain there is but one China and that Taiwan is a part of China.” In 1979, the U.S. discontinued formal relations with Taiwan, also known as the Republic of China (ROC), and formalized relations with the People’s Republic of China PRC), which is led by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).

Since 1979, the U.S. has continued informal relations with Taiwan through a policy of strategic ambiguity. China has warned, in recent months, against interactions between the U.S. and Taiwan.

The suggestion that the U.S. could be maintaining a significant troop presence on the island would be seen as an inflammatory move against China. In November, both the Pentagon and the government of Taiwan denied a report claiming U.S. Marines would visit Taiwan and help train Taiwanese troops.

Hu’s tweets come a day after the Global Times published multiple warning editorials pointing to the collapse of the U.S.-backed Afghan government as evidence that Taiwan should not trust the support of the U.S. government.

The Chinese government has also recently threatened to employ countermeasures to stop the U.S. transfer of 40 new mobile artillery vehicles to Taiwan, the first arms sale to Taiwan since President Joe Biden took office.