The United States is more involved in the existential dispute between China and Taiwan than was previously known. According to The Wall Street Journal, a small contingent of American troops has been deployed in Taiwan for over a year involving a special-operations unit of around two dozen with supporting Marines.
U.S. officials told the Journal the troops are working with local maritime forces on training missions involving small boats. The instruction comes amid Chinese encroachment on Taiwanese airspace and an increased naval presence in the 81-mile strait between the powerhouse country and the sovereign island nation, which was controlled by Beijing prior to the Chinese Communist Revolution. For decades, the U.S. has provided Taiwan with billions of dollars of military equipment, though because of the “One China” policy, Washington does not formally acknowledge Taiwan as a sovereign nation. American troops have not been officially stationed on the island since 1979, shortly after the Carter administration established diplomatic relations with the People’s Republic of China.
In March, Admiral Philip S. Davidson, the commander for the Indo-Pacific region, testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee warning that China could attempt to reclaim Taiwan using military force within the next six years. Taiwan’s defense minister, Chiu Kuo-cheng, added on Wednesday that China could launch a major attack with minimal losses by 2025. A Chinese offensive against Taiwan is widely considered the most likely flash point to potentially spark a direct conflict between the U.S. and Beijing. The two powers recently concluded a trade war and constantly spar for influence through economic involvement in Latin America and Southeast Asia.
With the situation in the South China Sea potentially heating up, the CIA announced Thursday that it has established a new mission center to “further strengthen our collective work on the most important geopolitical threat we face in the 21st century,” according to director William Burns. The day before, China’s foreign ministry had weighed in, advising the U.S. to end military aid to Taiwan. “China will take all necessary steps to protect its sovereignty and territorial integrity,” the statement read.