In a Rare Move, Taiwan Admits to U.S. Presence on the Island
As a matter of foreign policy, the U.S. has kept an ambiguous position on coming to the defense of Taiwan in case it is attacked by foreign powers. Case in point: In 2020, the U.S. military deleted a video showing U.S. Army Special Forces training soldiers in Taiwan.
Taiwan, strictly speaking, is technically a part of China under the One-China Policy—an internationally accepted principle that insists both Taiwan and mainland China are inalienable parts of a single "China."
But it looks like a different narrative is coming to the fore: the U.S. under the Biden administration is becoming more assertive when it comes to protecting its allies in the Asia Pacific.
On October 27, Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-Wen confirmed to CNN International that U.S. troops are currently on the island training with the Taiwanese armed forces. She defended the presence of U.S. armed forces on the island by saying they were essential to preserving democracy in that part of the world.
“Here is this island of 23 million people trying hard every day to protect ourselves and protect our democracy and making sure that our people have the kind of freedom they deserve,” she told CNN.
This new development is especially critical since China views Taiwan as a part of its territory. Having the U.S. train with Taiwanese forces will be viewed as an affront to Chinese sovereignty.
Taiwan has been thrust at the core of rising regional tensions between China and the West, as the latter seeks to contain China’s military and economic rise. Taiwan is considered a major U.S. ally in the Pacific, and is a recipient of billions of dollars’ worth of military aid for its defense against attacks.
In the past months, China demonstrated its capabilities of striking Taiwan by sending an unprecedented number of warplanes over Taiwanese airspace. In October, China sent at least 150 aircraft, and on a single day on October 4, it sent a record number of warplanes over the island, which included 34 jet fighters and 12 nuclear bombers. More than testing the Taiwanese response to these “incursions,” China was sending a message to the U.S.—it can and will do whatever it wants in its own backyard and no one can prevent it.
Will China Invade Taiwan?
In a statement on October 26, Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Zhao Lijian warned Taiwan that it is not ruling out anything when it comes to enforcing the One-China Policy.
"We also warn the Taiwan authorities that any attempt to seek Taiwan independence by soliciting foreign support is bound to fail. China has a firm resolve to safeguard national sovereignty and territorial integrity and will take all necessary measures to resolutely crush all attempts at Taiwan independence,” said Zhao.
This sentiment is echoed by Chinese state-run media Global Times, which ran a headline with the words “war is real.”
“The secessionist forces on the island will never be allowed to secede Taiwan from China under whatever names or by whatever means, and, the island will not be allowed to act as an outpost of the US’ strategic containment against China,” it wrote.
Tensions between Taiwan and China have been the worst in 40 years, according to Taipei’s defense minister.