The small presence of Americans secretly training local forces is a concern over China’s years of military build-up and recent moves
The deployment of a US special operation over Taiwan’s strategic capabilities in light of Beijing’s years of military build-up and recent threatening moves against the island is a sign of concern within the Pentagon.
Taiwan and US officials have expressed concern over some 150 flights near Taiwan by Chinese military aircraft over the past week. According to the Taiwanese government, Chinese aircraft include J-16 jet fighters, H-6 strategic bombers and Y-8 submarine-spotting aircraft and have set a record for such sorties.
The Chinese flights are reminiscent of the Communist Party’s view of Taiwan as a part of China, while not entering an area defined by Taiwan as its airspace. Beijing has vowed to take control of the island by force if necessary. Top US military officials testified earlier this year that Beijing may try to use force in its designs on Taiwan within the next six years. Other officials have said that China’s timeline could be even sooner.
Taiwan’s defense minister, Chiu Kuo-cheng, warned on Wednesday that China would be able to launch a full-scale attack on Taiwan with minimal damage by 2025.
White House and Pentagon officials declined to comment on the deployment of US military forces. There was no immediate response to requests for comment from Taipei. The deployment is rotational, US officials said, meaning that members of US units work on a variable schedule.
China’s foreign ministry said in a statement that it urged the US to abide by prior agreements and to stop military aid to Taiwan. China will take all necessary steps to protect its sovereignty and territorial integrity.
Asian media reports last year suggesting a possible US maritime deployment to Taiwan were never confirmed by US officials. The presence of US special operations forces has not been previously reported.
The Special Operations Unit and Marine Corps is a small but symbolic effort by the US to bolster Taipei’s confidence in building its defenses against a possible Chinese invasion. Current and former US government officials and military experts agree that deepening ties between US and Taiwan military units is better than simply selling Taiwan military equipment.
The US has sold billions of dollars worth of military hardware to Taiwan in recent years, but current and former officials believe that Taiwan should begin investing more heavily and deftly in its defense.
“Taiwan horribly neglected its national defense for the first 15 years or so of this century, buying vastly more expensive equipment that would be destroyed in the first hours of the conflict, and giving way to cheap but deadly systems—antiship missiles.” Very few in the U.S., smart marine mines and well-trained reserves and support forces – that could seriously complicate Beijing’s war plans,” said Matt Pottinger, a Distinguished Visiting Fellow at Stanford University’s conservative Hoover Institution, who has served as a member of the Trump administration. Served as a Deputy National Security Adviser during the administration.
Mr Pottinger said Taiwan’s overall military spending was similar to that of Singapore, which has a quarter of Taiwan’s population and “China is not taking its neck down.” Mr Pottinger said he was unaware of any US military deployments in Taiwan.
In May, Christopher Meier, who would later become the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Operations, told the Senate Armed Services Committee during his confirmation hearing that the US would consider such deployment of forces to help strengthen Taiwan’s capabilities. Must think hard. Mr Meier, who worked at the Pentagon under the Trump administration, did not say that special operations forces were already operating there.
Mr Meier told senators in May that US special operations units could show forces in Taiwan how to defend against an amphibious landing or train for dozens of other tasks needed to defend the island.
“I think this is something that we should consider strongly as we think about competing in term of different capabilities that we can implement,” he said, referring to specialized-operations units.
While some aspects of the US deployment can be classified, it is also considered politically sensitive given the strained relations between the US and China, according to US officials.
US-China relations are strained over trade, the COVID-19 pandemic, human rights and regional security, including the South China Sea. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan met with China’s top diplomat Yang Jiechi in Zurich on Wednesday.
China may see the presence of US military forces as a violation of commitments made by Washington in previous agreements. Establishing formal ties between the US and China in 1979, Washington agreed to break formal ties with Taiwan, conclude a defense pact, and withdraw its forces from the island. The US later said it would reduce arms sales to Taiwan.
A Pentagon spokesman pointed to the 1979 Taiwan Relations Act passed by Congress and said the law provides for the defense needs of Taiwan and the assessment of the threat posed by the People’s Republic of China, or PRC.
The spokesman, John Supple, said in a statement, “I will note that the PRC has stepped up efforts to intimidate and pressure Taiwan, including increasing military activities in the vicinity of Taiwan, which we believe are destabilizing and increasing the risk of miscalculation.” .
The Trump administration’s easing of rules that restricted contact with Taiwan by US officials was applauded by Taiwanese officials at the time. The sanctions limited US-Taiwan exchanges to avoid provoking China.
The Biden administration has continued some of the footsteps of its predecessor, sending a US delegation to Taipei in April.
Before leaving office, the Trump administration declassified the US Strategic Framework for the Indo-Pacific, a 10-page document broadly outlining the region’s objectives.
A section on Taiwan says that China will “take increasingly assertive steps to force integration with Taiwan” and recommends that the US “enable Taiwan to develop an effective asymmetric defense strategy and capabilities that support its Security will help ensure freedom from coercion, flexibility and the ability to engage China on its own terms.”
The strategy also calls for a “fighter-credible” US military presence to prevent Chinese dominance in that region, including Taiwan.
The document has not been replaced by a new Biden administration strategy, nor is it technically being implemented. Officials in the Biden administration have acknowledged that there are areas of continuity between the two administrations on China’s policies.
Gordon Lubold at [email protected]