The U.S. military is planning to quadruple its troop presence in Taiwan for training missions, the latest in a series of Pentagon plans to deter a Chinese invasion, The Wall Street Journal reported, citing anonymous U.S. officials.
In coming months, the U.S. will send between 100 and 200 troops compared to about 30 a year ago to expand a secret training program with the Taiwanese military, officials told the WSJ. The plan would entail the largest deployment of American forces to the island in decades as the U.S. government hopes to equip Taiwan with the capabilities to defend itself from a potential Chinese invasion without provoking further aggression, the officials said.
“One of the difficult things to determine is what really is objectionable to China,” one of the officials told the WSJ. “We don’t think at the levels that we’re engaged in and are likely to remain engaged in the near future that we are anywhere close to a tipping point for China, but that’s a question that is constantly being evaluated and looked at specifically with every decision involving support to Taiwan.”
The scaled-up program will involve training Taiwanese troops on U.S. weapons systems and and complex military maneuvers, the officials told the WSJ. They declined to offer further details. (RELATED: ‘Setting The Theater’: US, Allies Are Preparing For Conflict In The Pacific)
Pentagon officials have planned an expansion of the training program for months as China’s saber-rattling against Taiwan grows ever more severe. In 2022, Beijing conducted the largest ever military drills near the island and sent sorties of People’s Liberation Army ships and aircraft into Taiwanese territory at a record pace.
While the U.S. military doesn’t see an invasion coming in the immediate future, top officials warn that it is not a matter of if, but when, China attempt to “reunify” with the self-ruling island.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine instilled a sense of urgency in Taiwanese and U.S. officials to invest in Taiwan’s “porcupine” strategy. Officials wager that providing Taiwan with robust weapons and tactical expertise would render an assault on the island too risky for Beijing, according to the WSJ.
“We just need to be moving heaven and earth to arm Taiwan to the teeth before it’s too late,” Republican Rep. Mike Gallagher of Wisconsin, who chairs the new House Select Committee on China, said Wednesday after returning from a trip to Taiwan, Politico reported.
Well said, @RepGallagher! We thank the chair of the newly established #US🇺🇸 House special committee on #China for sharing his firsthand observations after a 4-day #Taiwan🇹🇼 trip. The free world must take the right steps for freedom & democracy to reign!
▶️https://t.co/DoD1coJeSY https://t.co/2oOFgJi4K3 pic.twitter.com/gHxulxQIji
— 外交部 Ministry of Foreign Affairs, ROC (Taiwan) 🇹🇼 (@MOFA_Taiwan) February 23, 2023
The White House, Pentagon and U.S. Indo-Pacific Command declined to comment to WSJ about the plans.
Previous deployments consisted of U.S. Marines and special operations forces and fluctuated by only a handful, the officials told the WSJ.
The Michigan National Guard is currently conducting regular training exercises with Taiwan’s military, including with a squad of Taiwanese troops at Camp Grayling in northern Michigan, people familiar with the training told the WSJ.
“I would highlight that our support for, and defense relationship with, Taiwan remains aligned against the current threat posed by the People’s Republic of China,” Army Lt. Col. Marty Meiners, a Pentagon spokesman, told the WSJ.
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