TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Amid unprecedented large-scale intrusions into Taiwan's air defense identification zone (ADIZ) by Chinese warplanes earlier this week, reports surfaced on Thursday (Oct. 7) that U.S. special operations forces and U.S. Marines have been providing training in Taiwan for at least year.
On Thursday, the Wall Street Journal cited U.S. government officials as saying that over two dozen U.S. special operations soldiers and support troops are stationed in Taiwan to provide military training for ground forces. In addition, U.S. Marines are working with Taiwan's naval forces in "small-boat training." The officials stated that the American forces have been in Taiwan for over a year.
That same day, Poltico released a report in which it cited a defense official as confirming that U.S. troops have been "advising" Taiwanese forces and are "increasing their efforts" in the country. Congressman Ami Bera, a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and the chair of its Subcommittee on Asia, told the news site that he was not aware of these particular deployments but expressed awareness of their presence in general: “I think we have special operators and others there, and we have in the past, that are there training this military (and) working with them.”
Senator Thom Tillis, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, also said that he was unaware of this specific deployment, but added that he would like to see even more troops dispatched to Taiwan.
In response to the Wall Street Journal report, Pentagon spokesman John Supple stated: "I don’t have any comments on specific operations, engagements, or training, but I would like to highlight that our support for and defense relationship with Taiwan remains aligned against the current threat posed by the People’s Republic of China." He stressed that the U.S. urges China to "honor its commitment to the peaceful resolution of cross-Strait differences.”
Supple then noted that China 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."
Thursday's articles confirm a Taiwan media report in November of last year that U.S. Marines were training in Taiwan, although the Pentagon denied the news at the time. This news also confirms reports that U.S. special forces troops would train their Taiwan counterparts following the Han Kuang 37 military exercises.
On Friday (Oct. 1) during China's national day, a record 38 Chinese military aircraft violated Taiwan's ADIZ, though this mark was quickly surpassed with 39 more People's Liberation Army Aircraft (PLAAF) planes the next day. An additional 16 PLAAF aircraft appeared on Sunday (Oct. 3), and another record-breaking 56 planes breached the zone on Monday (Oct. 4), bringing the four-day total to 149 warplanes.