The U.S. is set to significantly increase its troop presence in Taiwan by more than triple or quadruple its current number of military personnel on the island nation, according to a report in The Wall Street Journal.
Currently, the U.S. has a tiny troop presence on Taiwan—roughly just some 30 troops—and the planned increase would deploy between 100 and 200 troops in coming months. The larger force is meant to expand a training program the Pentagon has undertaken there but has not publicized as the U.S. assists Taiwan against any potential threat from China.
Tensions have been ratcheting up for some time between the U.S. and China over suspicions that China is planning to invade Taiwan. Analysts say that China has been watching and waiting to see how Russia fairs in its invasion of Ukraine before going forth with an assault against its own sovereign neighbor, just 100 miles off China’s coast.
Over the summer China undertook military exercises that blockaded Taiwan’s major ports, which Taiwan’s Foreign Minister asserted China was using as a “game plan” for invasion.
“It is conducting large-scale military exercises and missile launches, as well as cyberattacks, disinformation, and economic coersion, in an attempt to weaken public morale in Taiwan,” Joseph Wu said in August.
The American troops reportedly being sent to Taiwan will include special-operations forces and U.S. Marines. Over the past several years, U.S. troop presence on Taiwan has fluctuated, according to the Pentagon, but the planned increase would be the largest number of deployed forces there in decades.
The additional troops will be tasked with training Taiwan forces not only on U.S. weapons systems but on military maneuvers as well.
Along with the training on Taiwan, the Michigan National Guard is also training a contingent of the Taiwanese military, including during annual exercises with multiple countries at Camp Grayling in northern Michigan, sources tell the Journal.
Already heightened U.S.-Chinese tensions were made worse in recent weeks after the Pentagon shot down what it says was a Chinese surveillance balloon over South Carolinian waters after it had traveled across the continental U.S.
The balloon’s discovery had led Secretary of State Antony Blinken to postpone indefinitely a diplomatic visit to China. A few days later, China refused a phone call from Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin to his Chinese counterpart Wei Fenghe, the aim of which had reportedly been to ratchet down tensions amid the balloon saga.
This week, Blinken’s Chinese counterpart, Chinese State Councillor Wang Yi, has been meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow, where the two pledged to strengthen ties amid the one-year mark of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
U.S. officials declined to provide the Journal with any details regarding troop increases on Taiwan other than deployment.
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