According to the Wall Street Journal reporting, a contingent of U.S. Marines and a special operations unit have been secretly operating in Taiwan, training military forces on the island. The training mission is part of U.S. efforts to shore up Taiwan’s defenses as aggressive military acts by China continue in the region.
The U.S. personnel train small units of Taiwanese ground forces, and the Marines assist with small boat training. The troops have been in Taiwan for at least a year.
While the news of the U.S. presence would have been welcome during the Trump administration, the confused and chaotic operations of the military in withdrawing from Afghanistan under President Joe Biden create concerns about the reasons for the continuing Taiwan operations.
The deployment indicates concern inside the Pentagon about Taiwan’s defensive capabilities in response to China’s threatening actions and continuing military buildup. In the past week alone, there have been almost 150 Chinese military flights near Taiwan. Those flights include jet fighters, bombers, and anti-submarine planes.
U.S. Military officials have testified before Congress this year that it is likely that China will use its military to move against Taiwan within six years. China considers Taiwan to be a part of its national territory. On Wednesday, Taiwan’s defense minister stated that his nation believes China will launch a full attack with minimal losses against Taiwan no later than 2025.
The length of the Taiwan deployment dates back to the Trump administration. President Trump relaxed rules against contacts by U.S. officials with Taiwan. The move attempted to strike a balance between opening up relations with Taiwan and maintaining complex diplomatic relations with Beijing.
The favorable implication is that someone in the Pentagon still has a common-sense approach toward Taiwan’s ability to defend its independence. Many military experts have opined that strengthening training and operational ties with Taiwan is a better approach than simply selling military equipment to Taiwan.
For the time being, it appears that the Biden administration is willing to allow the current relationship with Taiwan to continue.