US troops secretly training Taiwanese since last year: Report | News

The Wall Street Journal said about two dozen US service members have trained Taiwanese ground and maritime forces.

US special operations forces and marines have been secretly training Taiwanese troops for more than a year, risking the ire of China, the Wall Street Journal has reported.

The Journal said on Thursday that about two dozen US service members have trained Taiwanese ground and maritime forces “for at least a year,” amid China’s rising verbal threats against the island ally of the United States.

The report cited unnamed officials for the report. Taiwan’s Defence Ministry declined to comment on the report.

The Pentagon did not confirm or deny the report. Spokesman John Supple said the US support for Taiwan’s military is gauged on its defence needs.

“Our support for and defence 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 honour its commitment to the peaceful resolution of cross-Strait differences.”

The US supplies weapons to Taiwan, including missiles and fighter jets [File: Sam Yeh/AFP]

The report appeared to confirm Taiwan media articles last November – which cited Taiwan’s Naval Command – that US troops had arrived there to train Taiwan marines and special forces in small-boat and amphibious operations.

Those reports were subsequently denied by US and Taiwanese officials, who emphasised the two sides are involved in bilateral military exchanges and cooperation.

The US supplies weapons to Taiwan, including missiles and fighter jets, amid Beijing’s threat to forcibly retake control of the island and reintegrate it with China. Taiwan is separated from mainland China by a sea channel about 161km (100 miles) wide.

The US also maintains an ambiguous commitment to defend Taiwan, which Beijing considers a renegade province.

A video released last year and featured in Taiwan media showed US troops taking part in an exercise on the island dubbed “Balance Tamper”.

Chinese forces have stepped up their activities towards Taiwan in the past year, conducting sea assault exercises and flying large sorties of bombers and fighters close to Taiwan airspace.

Taiwan said it tracked a record 56 Chinese aircraft in its air defence zone on Monday, in a series of military manoeuvres that began on Friday, China’s National Day, and prompted the island to scramble fighter jets in response.

The Mainland Affairs Council (MAC), Taiwan’s top China policy-making body, accused Beijing of “seriously damaging the status quo of peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait” with its recent larger incursions.

US State Department Spokesman Ned Price called the Chinese activity “destabilising” and “provocative”.

“We strongly urge Beijing to cease its military, diplomatic and economic pressure and coercion against Taiwan,” he said, calling US commitment to the island “rock-solid”.

On Wednesday, US President Joe Biden said that he spoke to Chinese President Xi Jinping about Taiwan.

Asked by a reporter about “China’s provocation over Taiwan”, Biden said on Tuesday that he and Xi had discussed the issue.

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