The Taiwanese president has confirmed that US forces are training with Taiwanese soldiers on the island, in a bid to increase defensive capability amid escalating Chinese military provocations.
“We have a wide range of cooperation with the United States aimed at increasing our defense capability,” Tsai Ing-wen said He said in an interview with CNN Posted on Thursday.
When asked how many US troops are in Taiwan, she said, “Not as many as people think.”
Tsai’s comments corroborate reports earlier this month that about two dozen US special operations unit personnel were working with the Taiwanese military and that a contingent of Marines was training local forces to bolster defenses in light of China’s aggressive behavior.
China, which views self-governing Taiwan as a rogue province, has stepped up its military operations in the region and sent dozens of warplanes into the Taiwan Air Defense Zone, prompting Washington to warn Beijing about “provocative military activity”.
Tsai said the Chinese threat was rising “every day” and described Taiwan as the “beacon” of democracy in the region.
“This island of 23 million people is trying so hard every day to protect ourselves, protect our democracy, and make sure our people have the freedom they deserve,” she said in an interview with CNN.
“If we fail, it means that people who believe in these values will doubt whether these are the values they (should) strive for,” Tsai added.
Chinese President Xi Jinping has vowed to achieve “peaceful reunification” with Taiwan, saying it serves the interests of the Taiwan people.
“No one should underestimate the Chinese people’s strong determination, strong will and strong ability to defend national sovereignty and territorial integrity,” the Chinese leader said. “The historic mission of the complete reunification of the motherland must be fulfilled, and certainly will be.”
Taiwan’s defense minister, Chiu Kuo-cheng, said the training between US and Taiwanese forces had taken place “too much, too frequently”.
“During these exchanges, any topic can be discussed,” he told reporters on Thursday, according to Reuters.
Chiu also noted that Tsai did not say US forces are permanently stationed in Taiwan, after lawmakers questioned whether their presence would give China a reason to attack.
“There is no connection between personnel exchange and troop stationing,” Chiu said.
According to the 1979 Taiwan Agreement, the United States must provide assistance if Taiwan is attacked.
President Biden, at CNN’s town hall last Thursday, pledged the United States to defend Taiwan if it was attacked by China, comments the White House had to make clear the next day.
The president began his remarks by saying that he did not want a “cold war with China” but added, “I just want China to understand that we will not back down, we will not change anything. From our perspectives. “
A White House spokesman said Fox News on Friday Biden “was not announcing any change in our policy.”
“The US defense relations with Taiwan are guided by the Taiwan Relations Act,” the spokesman said. “We will uphold our commitment under the law, continue to support Taiwan’s self-defense, and continue to oppose any unilateral changes to the status quo.”