Asia - Pacific

Taiwan's president confirms presence of US troops on island

Do not underestimate China's resolve to defend territorial integrity, says Beijing

Riyaz ul Khaliq   | 28.10.2021
Taiwan's president confirms presence of US troops on island


The Taiwanese president said that China's threat is mounting every day, confirming for the first time the presence of the US military on the island.

In an interview with CNN aired on Thursday, Tsai Ing-wen became the first Taiwanese president in decades to acknowledge the presence of US troops on the island for "training purposes".

"Threat from China is increasing every day,” she said, adding that dialogue with Beijing would allow Taiwan "to co-exist peacefully" with China.

Asked whether US soldiers are deployed in Taiwan, the law professor-turned-politician responded in affirmative. "Yes," she said, but did not give the number of the soldiers deployed.

"We have a wide range of cooperation with the US aiming at increasing our defense capability."

Last November, Taipei announced the arrival of US Marines to train Taiwanese soldiers for a brief training period.

However, The Wall Street Journal, citing unnamed US officials earlier this month, reported that "a US special operations unit and a contingent of Marines have been secretly operating in Taiwan to train military forces there."

It claimed that the deployment is "part of efforts to shore up the island's defenses as concern regarding potential Chinese aggression mounts."

Beijing claims Taiwan, an island nation of 24 million people, is its breakaway province, while Taipei has insisted on its independence since 1949 and has diplomatic relations with at least 15 countries.

Tensions have recently escalated in the Taiwan Strait, where China sent more than 150 sorties into what Taiwan calls its air defense identification zone (ADIZ).

The ADIZ is a buffer zone outside a country's airspace where it has the right to ask incoming aircraft to identify themselves.

According to Taiwan's National Defense Ministry, the island nation has "registered 680 incursions into ADIZ this year."

The increased Chinese air activity over the region has been sharply criticized by the US, something Beijing rejects as interference in "China's internal issues."

Last week, US President Joe Biden said the US would come to Taiwan's defense should China attack the island nation.

Asked about coming to Taipei's defense during a CNN town hall, Biden said, "Yes, we have a commitment to do that."

He was likely referring to the Taiwan Relations Act, a 1979 law that has guided the US relations with Taiwan. The relations have also been regulated by what is known as the Three Communiques, which are bilateral agreements with China.

Don't underestimate our resolve: China

Strongly reacting to the statement of Tsai, Beijing urged parties involved not to "underestimate" its resolve to defend territorial integrity.

"The fact that Taiwan is an inalienable part of China won't be changed by efforts made by secessionists led by the DPP authority to seek 'Taiwan independence'," Wang Wenbin, a spokesman of China's Foreign Ministry, told a news conference in Beijing.

Tsai is the leader of Taiwan's ruling Democratic Progressive Party or the DPP.

"The strong determination and ability of the Chinese people to defend national sovereignty and territorial integrity shouldn't be underestimated," Wang said, urging the US to "follow the three China-US joint communiques," Chinese daily Global Times reported.

None of the agreements between the US and China explicitly state the US will come to Taiwan's defense, but the Biden administration has repeatedly said its commitment to Taiwan is "rock solid."

The Taiwan Relations Act says the US "will make available to Taiwan such defense articles and defense services in such quantity as may be necessary to enable Taiwan to maintain a sufficient self-defense capability."

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