As relations between Taiwan and China have deteriorated in recent months, a report confirms that U.S. Marines have been in the island country for a year training Taiwanese troops to defend themselves against Chinese aggression.
China considers Taiwan a rogue province that has broken away. But the country’s communist leaders have remained well-behaved in recent decades, due to the potential military and geopolitical repercussions, should they use their military to move in on the island.
Meanwhile, Taiwan considers itself a sovereign nation. Leaders in the country have long enjoyed the support of the U.S, including during former President Donald Trump’s term in office from 2017 to just this year.
Taiwan has grown accustomed to feeling a sense of security for its population of roughly 24 million people. Pressure from Washington on Beijing has meant that those in Taipei City have never had to worry about an invasion.
That all changed when President Joe Biden and his ineffectual leaders took over on Jan. 20.
The BBC, citing Taiwan’s defense minister Chiu Kuo-cheng, reported that relations between the two countries are now considered to be at their worst in four decades. Biden has not taken a direct hard-line stance against signs of Chinese aggression, so the potential for armed conflict has Taiwan concerned.
With China’s moves in the South China Sea in recent years, their concerns are valid.
But The Wall Street Journal reported this week that the Department of Defense was proactive more than a year ago with regard to giving aid to those who potentially face the wrath of China’s military.
The paper reported roughly two dozen U.S. special operations and support troops, including Marines, have been in the country for at least a year to train members of Taiwan’s military on a rotational basis.
That offers a sense that the country is not alone. It also offers the Chinese a claim that American troops being in the country is in violation of the 1979 Taiwan Relations Act.
Despite the law, which bars such outside intervention, American troops are reportedly assisting Taiwan with small boat and other operations — presumably to help the country better plan strategies with regard to repelling an invasion.
The Pentagon would neither confirm nor deny the report. Defense Department spokesman John Supple said through a statement that American support for Taiwan “remains aligned against the current threat posed by the People’s Republic of China,” as reported by Business Insider.
Supple simply said the U.S. will “honor its commitment to the peaceful resolution of cross-Strait differences” with an aggressive China.
“The PRC has stepped up efforts to intimidate and pressure Taiwan and other allies and partners, including increasing military activities conducted in the vicinity of Taiwan, East China Sea, and South China Sea, which we believe are destabilizing and increase the risk of miscalculation,” Supple added.
Reports that U.S. troops have been working with Taiwan come as China has showed aggression near the island for “war games” with an alarming frequency in recent weeks.
From Friday until Monday of last week, almost 150 Chinese bombers and fighters encroached into Taiwan’s air space.
With U.S. credibility abroad diminished following the debacle in Afghanistan, all eyes now appear to be on Taiwan.
Bonnie Glaser, an expert on foreign policy specifically related to China, commented on the situation with China and Taiwan when speaking to NBC News in March, just six weeks after Biden’s inauguration.
“If the U.S. allowed China to take Taiwan by force, it would lose credibility with its allies and partners in the region, and possibly embolden Beijing to use force against other countries to solve territorial disputes in its favor,” she told NBC, just five months before Biden surrendered Afghanistan to the Taliban.
With what has occurred over the last two months, the Biden administration’s response will speak volumes about the country’s commitment to its allies — and to freedom internationally.
If the Wall Street Journal report is accurate, the Pentagon under the Trump administration was very much proactive with regard to being prepared to counter Chinese aggression in the region.
If troops have been training Taiwanese troops for a year, we all know who put them there, and that they are there to keep a promise to back up international allies of freedom.
The Biden administration has, for now, continued to honor the military commitment to Taiwan by keeping Marines and other personnel in the country. So if China attacks, the country’s fighters will have to first get through U.S. troops.
Doing so would escalate the situation, which might be why these troops are there to begin with.
Boots on the ground in Taiwan might act as a deterrent. That is a strategy the previous administration used frequently and with positive results when dealing with hostile countries.