Members of the U.S. Navy have officially begun a training operation in Taiwan to increase the military’s combat readiness, the island’s navy confirmed on Monday.
Amphibious training exercises, led by a group of visiting Marine Raiders, were described as “routine” by the Taiwanese Naval Command. It was the first public recognition of American troops in Taiwan since Washington and Taipei ended official diplomatic relations in 1979.
Soldiers belonging to the Taiwanese naval corps are trained for four weeks as part of the Raiders – a special unit that learns amphibious attack operations and infiltration techniques using speedboats – the United Daily News reported from Taiwan.
The training sessions will take place at the Tsoying base in Taiwan’s southwestern port city of Kaohsiung, the newspaper reported.
The hunters are believed to have arrived in Taiwan as early as October 26, but observed a two-week quarantine as part of the island’s COVID-19 containment measures.
The U.S. Marines are the first Allied troops to conduct joint military training with Taiwan since the coronavirus outbreak began eight months ago, the newspaper said.
“In order to maintain peace and stability in the region, routine security cooperation and exchanges between Taiwan’s and the United States’ armed forces continue as usual,” the Taiwanese Navy said in a statement on its website.
The Naval Command said it will not disclose details of the training exercises.
The extremely rare recognition of U.S. boots in Taiwan comes just days after American television stations declared presidential elections for Democrat Joe Biden.
Although President Donald Trump has not yet yielded and his administration continues to challenge the result, concern has been raised among Taiwanese residents, who overwhelmingly supported Trump’s re-election because of his hardline stance on China and the multi-billion-dollar arms deals with President Tsai Ing-wen’s administration.
In the latest round of arms sales announced by the Pentagon last Tuesday on election day, the Democratic Island purchased $600 million worth of armed Reaper drones.
But although neither Washington nor Taipei has officially recognized the presence of U.S. troops in Taiwan for more than 40 years, according to the United Daily News, there were regular military exchanges between the two countries before COVID-19.
Observers from Washington were invited to Taiwan’s annual Han Kuang military exercises, while U.S. Army Special Forces units were invited to annual joint meetings with Taiwan’s equivalent Army Aviation and Special Forces Command.
The Green Berets are involved in Operation Balance Tamper, which is taking place in the mountainous regions of central Taiwan, the newspaper said.
The U.S. Navy SEALs who annually train Taiwanese frogmen off the coast of Taiwan’s Penghu Islands in Operation Flash Tamper are also present each year.