United States troops have been secretly deployed in Taiwan for at least a year to help bolster the island nation’s defenses amid increasing acts of aggression from communist China, according to a new report.
U.S. officials told the Wall Street Journal on Thursday that around two dozen members of U.S. Special Operations and Marines have been training ground forces in Taiwan for at least a year. The Marines are also assisting maritime forces on small-boat training.
Officials said the deployment is rotational, which means the troops operate on a variable schedule. The officials believe Taiwan must invest more heavily in its defense, even after the United States has sold billions of dollars in military equipment to Taiwan in recent years.
“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, who served as a deputy national security advisor for former President Donald Trump’s administration.
Pottinger said Taiwan’s military spending is similar to Singapore’s, but the latter nation “doesn’t have China breathing down its neck.” Singapore’s population is also a quarter of the size of Taiwan’s population.
China likely views the U.S. presence in Taiwan as a violation of past agreements made between China and the U.S., including a 1979 agreement that the U.S. would end all formal ties with Taiwan, terminate defense agreements and withdraw forces.
However, one Pentagon spokesman highlighted the 1979 Taiwan Relations Act passed by Congress, which he said allows the U.S. to assess Taiwan’s defense needs, as well as any threats posed 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 in a statement.
The report comes days after China sent its largest-ever single wave of warplanes into Taiwan’s air defense identification zone (ADIZ). In total, 52 Chinese People’s Liberation Army aircraft breached Taiwan’s ADIZ.
The Chinese Foreign Ministry said in a statement that the United States should end all military aid to Taiwan, adding that the communist nation “will take all necessary steps to protect its sovereignty and territorial integrity.”