The United States is planning on “cooperation” between its National Guard and Taiwan’s military, Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen said on Tuesday, deepening security ties in the face of what Taipei’s government complains is a rising threat from China.
The United States is Chinese-claimed Taiwan’s most important international supporter and arms supplier, despite the lack of formal diplomatic ties. China has been stepping up its military activities near Taiwan, and its military said last week it had recently conducted an exercise around Taiwan as a “solemn warning” against “collusion” with the United States.
Meeting visiting U.S. Senator Tammy Duckworth in Taipei, Tsai noted that Duckworth was one of the main sponsors of the Taiwan Partnership Act, which has received bipartisan support though has yet to become law.
“As a result, the U.S. Department of Defense is now proactively planning cooperation between the U.S. National Guard and Taiwan’s defense forces,” Tsai said, without giving details.
“We look forward to closer and deeper Taiwan-U.S. cooperation on matters of regional security,” she added.
Taiwanese media has previously reported that Taiwan could partner with Hawaii’s National Guard for the program.
The exercise by China’s military came after U.S. President Joe Biden angered China by appearing to signal a change in an American policy of “strategic ambiguity” on Taiwan by saying the United States would become involved militarily if China were to attack the island. U.S. officials, however, tried to back pedal, saying there had been no change in policy.
On Wednesday, the People’s Liberation Army Eastern Theatre Command said they had conducted a combat “readiness patrol” around Taiwan in recent days as “a necessary action against U.S.-Taiwan collusion”.
“Recently, the United States has frequently made moves on the Taiwan issue, saying one thing and doing another, instigating support for Taiwan independence forces, which will push Taiwan into a dangerous situation,” the command added.
Taiwan has complained repeatedly of such missions in its Air Defense Identification Zone, or ADIZ.
Tsai has been overseeing the modernization of Taiwan’s armed forces, including reforming its reserve forces to make them more combat capable.
Speaking later with Taiwan Premier Su Tseng-chang, Duckworth said she had brought with her the director of the U.S. National Guard’s State Partnership Program “which will be working with you on setting up your all-out defense”.
She did not elaborate. The State Partnership Program pairs U.S. National Guard units with other countries to help with training and interoperability.
The Pentagon and the National Guard Bureau did not respond immediately to a request for comment.
Mark Montgomery, a retired U.S. Navy rear admiral and senior fellow at the Washington-based nonprofit Foundation for Defense of Democracies, said Hawaii’s National Guard would be a good fit for a Taiwan partnership due to their island geographies and the state’s hosting of the U.S. military’s Indo-Pacific Command.
“This is not an overnight thing once you agree to do it. It is an initially small but perhaps someday more significant element of an overall approach that we need to take with Taiwan,” Montgomery said, advocating for the move as a precursor to more extensive joint naval and air exercises.
Any such program would likely have a “patina” of humanitarian and disaster relief, but also include training on reserve force management, he said.
Taiwan was, however, not included in the United States’ Indo-Pacific Economic Framework for Prosperity, or IPEF, last week despite its lobbying efforts.
Tsai said Taiwan will keep expressing its willingness to participate.
“In the near future, we look forward to Taiwan and the United States working together in taking new steps to develop concrete plans that further deepen our economic partnership.”
U.S. officials responded on Wednesday saying it will launch new trade talks with Taiwan that would parallel the IPEF.
Washington and Taipei will “move quickly to develop a roadmap” for the planned U.S.-Taiwan Initiative on 21st-Century Trade in the coming weeks, which would be followed by in-person meetings in the U.S. capital later in June, two senior U.S. administration officials told reporters.
China’s Foreign Ministry expressed its opposition to Duckworth’s visit, as it does to all high-level engagements between Taiwan and the United States.
“China will continue to take strong measures to resolutely safeguard national sovereignty and territorial integrity,” ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said in Beijing.
Copyright 2022 Thomson/Reuters (Additions and edits for FISM News by Michael Cardinal)