The United States is set to expand the number of troops helping train Taiwanese forces, two U.S. officials said on Thursday, at a time of heightened tensions between Washington and Beijing.
The number of U.S. troops is expected to more than quadruple, with up to 200 troops being deployed to the island nation in the coming months according to officials cited by the Wall Street Journal.
Reuters reported in 2021 that a small number of about 30 U.S. special operations forces have currently been rotating into Taiwan on a temporary basis to train their forces.
One of the officials said the move was unrelated to recent tensions over the shootdown of a Chinese spy balloon that flew across the United States.
The balloon caused a political uproar in Washington and prompted Secretary of State Antony Blinken to cancel a trip to Beijing that both countries had hoped would steady their rocky relations.
“We don’t have a comment on specific operations, engagements, or training, but 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,” a Pentagon spokesman said.
Speaking to reporters in Taipei on Friday, Taiwan Defense Minister Chiu Kuo-cheng said he “didn’t know” the source of the information about expanded training. He added Taiwan and the United States had a lot of military interaction and declined further comment.
Taiwan‘s official Central News Agency this week reported that a battalion of around 500 soldiers would also go to the United States for training this year.
Chu indirectly confirmed that some soldiers would head to the United States for training that would be more tactical than in the past but did not provide details of numbers.
China sees Taiwan as a wayward province and has not ruled out taking the island by force. Taiwan says it is an independent country and will defend its democracy and freedom.
The United States is Taiwan‘s largest supplier of weaponry and has long offered some degree of training on weapons systems, as well as detailed advice on ways to strengthen its military to guard against an invasion by China’s Peoples Liberation Army.
Copyright 2023 Thomson/Reuters