A recent report from The Wall Street journal has indicated that the United States Special Operations forces and the U.S Marines have started carrying out more frequent rotational deployments to the Island as fears of full scale Chinese aggression increase. The news comes after Chiu Kuo Cheng, the Island Country’s defence minister, spoke of a possible “full Scale Invasion” from the Chinese Side before 2025.
According to previous speculations there are about 24 American special forces operators alongside other units that regularly get deployed to the Island, these elite operators are deployed to Taiwan to train specialised units of Taiwanese Ground Forces. According to an article published in the journal, there are also “an unspecified number of Marine Corps Operators who are said to be providing assistance and maritime training to local forces”. However it is still not clear whether there are permanent or semi-permanent US units deployed to the Island.
There have been Reports earlier as well which talked of an increased number of Marine Troops having been deployed to Taiwan, the reports came afloat in last November and were at that time confirmed by the Taiwanese Naval command. Although Taiwan’s defence ministry refrained from providing further details. Even officials at the Pentagon deemed those reports as “inaccurate” without elaborating on what specific details were incorrect.
An article in the journal states “The presence of US special Operations Forces hasn’t been previously reported”. Another news outlet The War Zone had reported on the basis of an unofficial U.S Military video wherein US army’s elite Green Berets were seen taking part in a regular Joint Combined Exchange Training (JCET), the Taiwanese forces and US army have been carrying out this exercise in order to enhance interoperability and the exercise is more commonly referred to as exercise balance temper. This video was subsequently taken down in order to avoid further speculations. Another such report in 2017 had indicated that the US special operations command released some documents which proved that at least one other deployment of special forces to Taiwan was in the pipeline.
JCET’s are very small scale training exercises which usually involve anywhere between 10 and 40 American troops, the exercise involves general combat skills and tactics. This number is in line with that reported by the journal regarding the total number of American special forces deployed in Taiwan.
The Journal’s story didn’t mention the unconfirmed report that appeared earlier this year that the American forces are possibly deployed under the umbrella of the US army’s 5th Security Force Assistance Brigade/5th SFAB which is currently operating from a Taiwanese training base in the northern town of Hukou in country’s Hsinchu County. There are, at present total six SFAB’s within the army and the national guard, which work as dedicated advisory forces. The 5th SFAB has its headquarters at Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington State and is responsible for carrying out assistance missions to friendly countries in the Indo-Pacific Region.
At present the Total American Force composition in Taiwan is unknown, but the presence of special operatives and Marines can’t be denied, as The War Zone had reported in the past that the US army’s Special Forces units are specifically trained to support allied forces in unconventional warfare and providing them support behind enemy lines in case any conflict takes place.
In May this year, a Missouri republican, Senator Josh Hawley advocated for an increased effort to help and assist Taiwanese Military, Hawley further went on to speak about America’s Role in providing assistance to the Baltic States of Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia as a measure to stop Russian aggression and he emphasised on employing the same techniques in favour of Taiwan against China.
According to the Journal’s Reports, the Marines have been carrying out regular small boat operations with the Taiwanese defence forces, many times these small boats have been used to carry anti-tank guided missiles during regular training operations as earlier reported by The War Zone.
In addition to training and technical assistance the US government has also approved an array of weapons to be sold to Taiwan in recent years, this includes state of the art F 16 C/D Block 70 “Viper” jets alongside MQ 9B armed UAV’s and Ground Launched Harpoon anti-ship missiles and much more. There have been some reports mentioning of possible sale of M1A2T Abrams main battle tanks and M109A6 paladin 155 mm self-propelled howitzers, US army deployments in the long run will be imperative for providing initial training and maintenance support to the Taiwanese defence forces. Even a small number of American troop presence on the island would be enough to deter China since any Chinese aggression, if it leads to American casualties would be met with fierce vengeance not only from America but from American allies as well since America will then be able to utilise her international pacts and treaties with her NATO allies. This situation may significantly influence Chinese decision – making regarding a full scale conflict across the Taiwan straits.
The outgoing Trump administration had asserted in January this year that “there is a need for enabling Taiwan to defend itself from Chinese aggression on its own Terms”
Recently Chiu Kuo Cheng, Taiwan’s defence minister had added that “With regards to staging a full scale attack on Taiwan, they (China) have the ability. But China will surely have to pay the price”. He warned that , by around 2025 , that price could be a lot lower, increasing the chances of a full-scale invasion of the island.
China considers Taiwan as one of her provinces and has been repeatedly threatening to use Military force to prevent Taiwanese authorities from declaring an official independence from mainland China. The Chinese military often carries out provocative aerial activity and maritime naval incursions within Taiwan’s sovereign waters. Taiwan’s defence ministry says that Chinese warplanes have flown 150 sorties over Taiwan’s Air Defence Identification Zone/AIDZ just within this month.
Currently the US government has a 1979 based “One-China Policy” which formally recognises the regime in Beijing but not the one in Taipei. But at the same time it reserves the right to engage with Taiwanese administration and support the island’s military until such time as its final status has been conclusively resolved.
The Increasing number of Reports regarding American presence in Taiwan suggests that the US itself is no more reluctant from providing in public domain the reports of it being engaged actively in military cooperation with Taiwan, sending clear signals to China. The Pentagon has already declared China as the current “pacing threat” in the Indo-Pacific region and the US military as a whole is determined to deal with China through bolstering defence ties with other countries in the region.
The White House had reported recently that Joe Biden will hold a virtual meeting with president Xi Jinping before the end of the year and will touch upon these issues ,the Biden administration in the meantime looks very similar to the Trump administration when it comes to dealing with China-Taiwan Issues, Biden as of now appears to be taking a much proactive stance in challenging Chinese ambitions against Taiwan, and is actually doing it more publicly than by anyone ever before, though how this strategy actually impacts China-Taiwan tensions in the long run, is yet to be witnessed.