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US Marines officially training in Taiwan for 1st time since 1979

US Marine Raiders arrive in Taiwan to train troops in assault and infiltration missions

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US Marines conducting amphibious assault exercise during Talisman Sabre 19 in Bowen, Australia in 2019. (US Navy photo)

US Marines conducting amphibious assault exercise during Talisman Sabre 19 in Bowen, Australia in 2019. (US Navy photo)

Update: 11/13 10:00 a.m.

Pentagon spokesman John Supple has told Taiwan News that "The reports about U.S. Marines in Taiwan are inaccurate" but did not elaborate on which details were incorrectly reported. He further stated that that the U.S.' actions toward Taiwan are in line with the Taiwan Relations Act, as they have been for 40 years, and called on China "to cease its military, diplomatic, and economic pressure targeted at Taiwan and to engage in meaningful dialogue."

On Thursday (Nov. 12), Taiwan's Ministry of National Defense (MND) changed its tune and issued a statement in which it claimed that media reports about the U.S. Marine Corps assisting Taiwan Marines in military training at Tsoying Naval Base this week are "not consistent with the facts." When Taiwan News contacted an MND representative about the matter, he could neither confirm nor deny the current involvement of U.S. troops in a training mission in Taiwan.

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Taiwan's Naval Command on Monday (Nov. 9) confirmed media reports that a contingent of U.S. Marines have arrived at the invitation of Taiwan's military and will begin training Taiwanese troops for four weeks starting that day, marking the first public acknowledgment of U.S. Marines training in Taiwan in over 40 years.

Starting on Monday, the Marine Raiders, the Marines' special operations soldiers, will begin training Taiwanese Marines in assault boat and speedboat infiltration operations at the Tsoying Naval Base in Kaohsiung, reported UDN. This is the first interaction between Taiwanese troops and those of an allied country since the Wuhan coronavirus (COVID-19) put a halt to such exchanges about seven or eight months ago.

The Navy Command stated that this case is a 'routine Taiwan-U.S. military exchange and cooperation training." It said that it hopes that through this exchange with U.S. Marines, it can improve the combat capabilities of its own troops.

US Marines officially training in Taiwan for 1st time since 1979
(Facebook, US Marine Corps photo)

The U.S. Marines first followed the Ministry of Health and Welfare's epidemic prevention protocol of observing two weeks of quarantine at an epidemic prevention hotel before the training could begin.

The Navy Command at 10 a.m. on Monday morning issued a statement in which it said: "In order to maintain regional peace and stability, the military and security cooperation and exchanges between Taiwan and the U.S. are proceeding normally." However, it would not comment on the details of the exchange.

It is notable that this time the Navy Command confirmed that active-duty U.S. Marines have come to Taiwan. This marks the first public confirmation of U.S. military exchanges involving U.S. Marines in Taiwan since the cessation of diplomatic relations between Taiwan and the United States in 1979.

US Marines officially training in Taiwan for 1st time since 1979
11M Naval Special Warfare Rigid Inflatable Boat. (marines.mil photo)

The U.S. sends small units of elite troops of other branches of the armed forces for joint training missions to Taiwan on an annual basis, but they are rarely acknowledged by the Taiwan government. For example, the ROC Army Aviation and Special Forces Command and United States Army Special Forces (the Green Berets) every year hold a joint exercise called Balance Tamper.

While carrying out a raiding craft landing drill off Taoziyuan beach in Kaohsiung City on July 3, two out of the eight rafts were overturned by an unexpected surge of waves. The incident resulted in three deaths and one severe injury and led to a cancelation of the raft landing section of this year's Han Kuang military exercises, putting the viability of future such exercises into question.

The Taiwan Navy has allocated NT$822.24 million (US$28.8 million) to strengthen the special operations and anti-terrorism capabilities of the Marines. The allocation thus far has included the acquisition of 18 special operations raiding crafts, thermal imagers, and boarding equipment.

US Marines officially training in Taiwan for 1st time since 1979
US Marines and Indian service members wade ashore at Kakinada Beach, India. (defense.gov photo)

Each battalion of the U.S. Marine Raiders Regiment is composed of four companies and each company has a team of more than 100 marines with special operations capabilities. The regiment has long been used to carry out reconnaissance missions and amphibious light infantry warfare via a variety of vessels, particularly in rubber boats.