A reported plan by the US to increase the number of troops stationed in Taiwan suggests “quasi-recognition” by the US of Taiwan’s sovereignty and international standing, a military expert said on Friday.
The Wall Street Journal on Thursday reported that the US is to markedly increase its number of troops deployed in Taiwan to bolster a training program for the nation’s military.
“The US 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 US officials.
Photo: RITCHIE B. TONGO, EPA
The plan to increase the number of US troops, if true, is the result of Taiwan procuring more weapons from the US in recent years, said Shen Ming-shih (沈明室), a research fellow at the Institute for National Defense and Security Research.
All US arms sales packages come with training programs, so the US would likely send more military personnel to the nation to train the military on the weapons being delivered, Shen said.
The plan, along with recent reports of an unannounced visit by US Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for China Michael Chase, suggest “quasi-recognition” of Taiwan’s sovereignty and international standing, he said.
The plan to increase the number of US troops could also indicate that the US intends to broaden the scope of its military exchanges with the nation, which traditionally have covered assistance to the marine corps, special forces and missile forces, he said.
The American Institute in Taiwan in 2019 confirmed that members of the US Marine Corps in plain clothes had been stationed in Taiwan since 2005, institute research fellow Shu Hsiao-huang (舒孝煌) said.
It would not be surprising if more US troops were being sent given the rise in the number of US weapons Taiwan has purchased in recent years, Shu added.
The plan could stem from US dissatisfaction over existing training programs for troops in Taiwan, retired air force lieutenant general Chang Yan-ting (張延廷) said.
The US could have put forward a plan to send serving military officials to Taiwan to bolster its military training programs, he said.
The US personnel being sent to Taiwan could be retired military personnel working for weapons manufacturers, of which there are many, retired air force colonel Chou Yu-ping (周宇平) said.
This was the case with Taiwan’s procurement of Patriot surface-to-air defense missile systems, Chou added.
The Ministry of National Defense should convey to US personnel the goals it hopes to achieve through training, instead of passively accepting whatever the US is preparing to teach, Chou said, adding that it needs to effectively tap into the US’ wealth of combat experience.
The Pentagon could have formed a plan to send troops to Taiwan to assess the nation’s defense capabilities in response to repeated demands from the US Congress that it do so, said Chieh Chung (揭仲), an associate research fellow at the Chinese Nationalist Party’s (KMT) National Policy Foundation think tank.
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 for the nation’s armed forces in the US to learn how to operate new equipment, he said.
Asked by KMT Legislator Tseng Ming-chung (曾銘宗) about the report during a question-and-answer session at the legislature in Taipei, Minister of National Defense Chiu Kuo-cheng (邱國正) denied there had been any arrangements to increase the number of US military personnel in the nation.
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