Reports of U.S. Marines helping to train Taiwanese troops this week are “inaccurate,” the Pentagon said Wednesday, despite the assertion by an incumbent legislature that American soldiers are “definitely in Taiwan.
The Taipei-based United Daily News said members of the U.S. Marine Raiders were invited to Taiwan for a four-week training session starting Monday, but the island’s Department of Defense also refuted the details, saying they were “not true.
The Raiders were reportedly tasked with overseeing a group of Taiwanese marines who were to be taught techniques such as amphibious assault operations and speedboat infiltration, the newspaper said.
This came after Taiwan’s naval command issued a rare statement on Monday in response to local media reports claiming that American troops were at the Tsoying Naval Base in the southwestern port city of Kaohsiung.
Taiwan begins a U.S. military exercise for the first time in 40 years
“In order to maintain peace and stability in the region, routine security cooperation and exchanges between the armed forces of Taiwan and the United States continue as usual,” the brief statement by the Taiwan Navy said.
“Inaccurate” was the term used by Pentagon spokesman John Supple, according to a report in the Stars and Stripes newspaper approved by the Department of Defense on Wednesday, which received the comments by e-mail about the Indo-Pacific Command.
“The United States remains committed to our One China policy,” Supple reportedly said, without going into details of ongoing or planned military exchanges with Taiwan’s forces. “U.S. action is governed by the Taiwan Relations Act and is based on an assessment of Taiwan’s defense needs, as it has been for more than 40 years.
“The United States will continue to provide Taiwan with such defense supplies and services in the quantities necessary to enable Taiwan to maintain sufficient self-defense capabilities,” the newspaper quoted him as saying.
In a statement made to the media on Thursday, Taiwan’s Defense Ministry spokesman Shih Shun-wen said, “Reports of U.S. Marines training Taiwanese Marines in Taiwan are not true.
“Nor has the Navy confirmed the content of the reports,” he added.
But lawmaker Chao Tien-lin, a member of President Tsai Ing-wen’s Democratic Progress Party (DPP), added to the confusion today when he told reporters: “The U.S. Marines are definitely in Taiwan. We are conducting an intensive military exchange”.
“International relations are an art form,” he added. “That this is all very imprecise, I think that’s where the art lies.”
Military exchanges are not unusual, Chao had said earlier in response to this week’s reports, noting that the relatively public nature of the latest exchange was meant as a “warning” to China.
Chao did not respond to Washington Newsday’s request for comment at the time of publication.
Taiwan’s Foreign Minister Joseph Wu was equally reluctant to comment on the presence of U.S. Marines on the island.
“This matter is not within my jurisdiction, so I do not know,” Wu told lawmakers at a meeting of the Foreign and National Defense Committee on Thursday.
According to the country’s state-funded Central News Agency, which relied on an anonymous military source, American trainers were quarantined for two weeks as part of Taiwan’s COVID-19 regulations before training began this week.
The Taiwan Navy’s cryptic statement was seen as the first public recognition of U.S. military personnel’s visit to Taiwan in over 40 years since the formal termination of bilateral relations between Washington and Taipei in 1979.
The meeting, which was reportedly part of an “annual project,” marked the first military exchange between Taiwan and an allied nation since the outbreak of coronavirus about eight months ago brought related activities to a halt, the United Daily News reported.
The ambiguous nature of official and unofficial statements may have successfully confused Beijing.
The Global Times, the falcon newspaper of the Chinese Communist Party, wrote in response to the speculation: “The presence of the U.S. military in Taiwan used to be an open secret,