A bombshell Wall Street Journal report has revealed (and confirmed) that an elite contingent of special operations Marines has been deployed to Taiwan for at least the past year - a revelation sure to outrage Beijing amid ongoing charges that the US has effectively abandoned the status quo One China policy.
Citing US officials with knowledge of the program, the report details that "About two dozen members of U.S. special-operations and support troops are conducting training for small units of Taiwan’s ground forces," and that "The U.S. Marines are working with local maritime forces on small-boat training." It's the first such openly confirmed US training deployment in support of local forces since 1979. Taiwan media previously reported it, but this is the first time US officials are providing confirmation.
The sources confirmed, "The American forces have been operating in Taiwan for at least a year" - news which comes after multiple large waves of Chinese PLA flights have left the self-ruled island's defense forces on high alert, and have sent tensions soaring.
There've long been rumors of the Marine presence, and local media reports, but it was deemed highly secretive likely so as to avoid Beijing's wrath and escalatory military measures, as WSJ notes:
Asian media reports last year suggesting a possible U.S. Marine deployment in Taiwan were never confirmed by U.S. officials. The presence of U.S. special operations forces hasn’t been previously reported.
In 2020 Taiwan local media had noted the Pentagon expressly denied the presence of US Marine Raiders (a recently re-established Marine special ops group). One report said at the time:
Pentagon spokesman John Supple has told Taiwan News that "The reports about U.S. Marines in Taiwan are inaccurate" but did not elaborate on which details were incorrectly reported.
Taiwan officials have previously used terms like "fortress" and "porcupine strategy" to describe the level of readiness the island is hoping to achieve in order to stave off any future Chinese military threat. Taipei has also recently approved a nearly $9 billion boost in arms and defense modernization spending amid near daily PLA aerial incursions of its defense identification zone.
Why just two dozen members? Why secretly? The US should send 240 servicemen publicly, in US military uniform, and make public where they are stationed. See whether the PLA will launch a targeted air strike to eliminate those US invaders! https://t.co/0Herr8TBtu— Hu Xijin 胡锡进 (@HuXijin_GT) October 7, 2021
Taiwan's defense minister on Wednesday issued a dire warning (though not something entirely new in terms of alarmist statements) which appears geared toward gaining more direct support from Western allies:
"With regards to staging an attack on Taiwan, they currently have the ability. But [China] has to pay the price," Chiu Kuo-cheng, the defense minister, told Taiwanese journalists on Wednesday.
But he said that by 2025, that price will be lower -- and China will be able to mount a "full-scale" invasion.
China's Foreign Ministry has meanwhile issued repeat "red line" warnings concerning the contested island. Very likely Chinese intelligence was already fully aware of the now confirmed small US Marine presence on the island, also amid continued major arms deals inked between Taiwan and the US.
Biden has signaled he intends to see through to completion the multiple Trump-era weapons deals, something which Chinese officials have condemned as brazen violations of 'One China'.
"A U.S. special-operations unit and a contingent of Marines have been secretly operating in Taiwan to train military forces there, U.S. officials said, part of efforts to shore up the island’s defenses..." https://t.co/8pe09S2LOp via @WSJ— Jonathan Landay (@JonathanLanday) October 7, 2021
Last month Taiwan's defense ministry said in a statement that "In the face of severe threats from the enemy, the nation’s military is actively engaged in military building and preparation work, and it is urgent to obtain mature and rapid mass production weapons and equipment in a short period of time."
Apparently this military readiness build-up is now receiving almost unprecedented direct support from US military trainers on the ground - something which could easily expand at any moment - but which will no doubt provoke increased military exercises in contested airspace and waters surrounding Taiwan. Chinese state media recently went so far as to call for direct PLA flyovers above the island.