Pentagon balks on sending Marines to de facto US embassy in Taiwan

Pentagon rejects request to send Marines to protect new American Institute in Taiwan

U.S. Marines march past Marine Corps War Memorial in Arlington, Virginia.

U.S. Marines march past Marine Corps War Memorial in Arlington, Virginia. (By Wikimedia Commons)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) -- Despite reports on both sides of the Taiwan Strait that U.S. Marines would be deployed at the new American Institute in Taiwan (AIT), the de facto U.S. embassy in the country, the Pentagon has rejected the plan, reported CNN.

According to the report, United States Secretary of Defense General James Mattis last month rejected a request by the State Department to deploy Marines to protect the new AIT compound, which had a dedication ceremony on June 12. It appears that reports by Taiwanese and Chinese media outlets that preparations were in the works to send a Marine Security Guard detachment to the AIT facility were true, as CNN cited a defense official as saying that the military had been planning on sending Marines to Taiwan as soon as next month.

During a speech last year, former AIT Director Stephen Young (楊甦棣) said that the U.S. would be in charge of security at the new compound and that having the Marines stand guard at the facility would be a "symbolic expression of the U.S. commitment to its friends in Taiwan."

However, the plan was rejected because the State Department had not notified the Pentagon far enough in advance about the need to deploy them before the projected opening of the de facto embassy, and thus led to prohibitive "resource constraint issues," according to a defense official who spoke to CNN. Ironically, the new facility, which will house some 450 staff in Taipei's Neihu District, will instead be guarded contractors who will likely cost more in terms of monetary resources than the Marines would have.

As to whether threats and pressure from Beijing had spurred the Pentagon into changing its mind, the defense official cited in the report stated that the decision had been made entirely based on resource constraints and it was "not to avoid irritating the communist government."

When CNN asked to comment on the Pentagon's decision to nix the Marine detachment, a State department official said, "we do not discuss specific security matters concerning the protection of our facilities or personnel." When CNA requested a comment from the State Department on the matter, it sent an email response which said the following:

"As is the practice at AIT's current location, a small number of American personnel detailed to AIT along with a larger number of locally-hired employees will provide security for the new office building in cooperation with local authorities"

As for the Pentagon's official comment on the matter, CNA cited Lt. Col. Christopher Logan as saying:

"We do not discuss the operational details or the internal deliberations related to specific security matters concerning the protection of our facilities or personnel."

In the past, the United States always sent the Marine Corps to provide security for overseas embassies and consulates, but after severing relations with Taiwan in 1979, the two countries continued to maintain "unofficial relations," through the AIT, which is officially a non-profit "non-governmental organization," with no Marines stationed. However it is understood that since 2005, the U.S. began stationing military officers in AIT Taipei office location, but with no military uniform.