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Experts weigh in on rumored increase of U.S. troops in Taiwan

02/24/2023 09:15 PM
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CNA file photo
CNA file photo

Taipei, Feb. 24 (CNA) A reported plan by the United States to increase the number of troop it stations in Taiwan suggests "quasi-recognition" by the U.S. of Taiwan's sovereignty and international standing, a military expert said on Friday.

The Wall Street Journal reported earlier Thursday that the U.S. is set to markedly increase the number of troops deployed in Taiwan to bolster a training program for the island's military.

"The U.S. plans to deploy between 100 and 200 troops to the island in the coming months, up from roughly 30 there a year ago," the report said, citing U.S. officials.

Asked to comment on the report, Shen Ming-shih (沈明室), a research fellow at the Ministry of National Defense think tank Institute for National Defense and Security Research (INDSR), said the reported plan to increase in the number of U.S. troops, if true, is the result of Taiwan procuring more weapons from the U.S. in recent years.

All U.S. arms sales packages come with training programs, so the U.S. is likely sending more military personnel to Taiwan because there is more training that needs to be done with the increase in the number of weapons delivered to Taiwan, Shen said.

The reported plan, along with recent reports of an unannounced visit to Taiwan by Michael Chase, U.S. deputy assistant secretary of defense for China, suggest "quasi-recognition" of Taiwan's sovereignty and international standing, he said.

The reported plan to increase the number of U.S. troops could also indicate that the U.S. intends to broaden the scope of its military exchanges with Taiwan, which traditionally have covered assistance to the latter's marine corps, special forces and missile forces, he said.

Shu Hsiao-huang (舒孝煌), another research fellow at INDSR, echoed Shen's views.

The American Institute in Taiwan confirmed in 2019 that members of the U.S. Marine Corps in plain clothes had been stationed in Taiwan since 2005, and it would not be surprising if more U.S. troops were being sent to Taiwan given the rise in the number of U.S. weapons Taiwan has purchased in recent years, Shu said.

The reported plan to station more U.S. troops in Taiwan could have stemmed from U.S. dissatisfaction about existing training programs adopted by Taiwan for its troops, retired Air Force Lieutenant General Chang Yan-ting (張延廷) said.

The U.S. could have put forward a plan to send serving military officials to Taiwan to bolster the latter's military training programs, he said.

Chou Yu-ping (周宇平), a retired Air Force colonel from the Defense Ministry's Missile Defense Command, shared Shen's views, but said the U.S. personnel being sent to Taiwan could be retired military personnel now working for weapons manufacturers, of which there are many.

This was the case with Taiwan's procurement of Patriot surface-to-air missile systems, Chou added.

He indicated that Taiwan's Defense Ministry should proactively convey to U.S. personnel the goals it hopes to achieve through training instead of passively accepting whatever the U.S. is preparing to teach, so as to effectively tap into the latter's wealth of combat experience.

Meanwhile, Chieh Chung (揭仲), an associate research fellow with the Kuomintang (KMT) think tank National Policy Foundation, said the Pentagon could have formed a plan to send troops to Taiwan to assess the latter's defense capabilities in response to repeated demands from the U.S. Congress that it do so.

The deployment would likely be mission-based and therefore short-term rather than permanent, he said.

The rumored deployment of troops could be in preparation for a planned training program to be undertaken by the nation's armed forces in the U.S. to learn how to operate new equipment, he said.

When asked by KMT Legislator Tseng Ming-chung (曾銘宗) to comment on the report during a question-and-answer session at the Legislature, Defense Minister Chiu Kuo-cheng (邱國正) denied that there had been any arrangements to increase the number of U.S. military personnel in Taiwan.

"There are no discussions about (the U.S.) stationing troops," Chiu said.

The U.S. has been sending personnel to teach Taiwan's military how to use weapons and equipment purchased from the U.S. for a long time, Chiu said, adding that they would also provide troubleshooting and give feedback.

Such exchanges have never stopped, the minister said.

He said he did not know where the Wall Street Journal obtained the information for the story.

(By Matt Yu, Fan Cheng-hsiang and Sean Lin)


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