US to quadruple troops deployed to Taiwan for secretive ‘training programme’

The US is quadrupling troops it deploys in Taiwan amid heightened tensions with China, according to a report.

The latest move comes amid a recent incident in which a Chinese balloon encroached US airspace and sparked a war of words between the superpowers over the issue of surveillance.

The US is now planning to deploy between 100-200 troops to the self-governed island in the coming months, a significant increase from roughly 30 a year ago, the Wall Street Journal reported on Thursday, citing officials.

This would be Washington’s largest deployment of forces on the island in decades.

The American troops will expand what the Pentagon calls a “training programme” which helps Taipei with capabilities to defend against an invasion from mainland China.

China maintains that the self-governed island is part of its national territory and continues to fly a record number of warplanes into its airspace.

The US, one of Taiwan’s key allies, is the island’s largest supplier of weaponry and has offered unwavering support for the island’s democracy.

The Taiwanese defence minister, however, downplayed Washington’s military build up, saying there are no US troops “stationed” on the island.

“The information is from US media, and we don’t know where it comes from. Our exchanges with the US have been non-stop because we get our weapons and equipment from the US,” defence minister Chiu Kuo-cheng said on Friday.

“No US troops are stationed in Taiwan,” he was quoted as saying by Bloomberg.

It was previously reported in 2021 that a small number of US special operations forces have been in rotation in Taiwan on a temporary basis to train their forces.

The Michigan National Guard has been training a contingent of the Taiwanese military, including during annual exercises with multiple countries, at Camp Grayling in Michigan. A battalion of around 500 soldiers will be soon heading to the US for training, according to Taiwan’s official Central News Agency.

Taiwanese president Tsai Ing-wen told a visiting bipartisan US congressional delegation that the two nations will cooperate “even more closely” to “bolster military exchanges”.

Washington has been increasing its military presence in Taiwan and around the South China Sea to counter Beijing’s growing aggression in the region.

Earlier this month, the US secured access to four more military bases in the Philippines.

The additional troops to be deployed in Taiwan will be tasked with training the local forces not only on US weapons systems but on military maneuvers to protect against a potential Chinese offensive, an US official told the WSJ.

“We don’t have a comment on specific operations, engagements or training, but I would highlight that our support for, and defense relationship with, Taiwan remains aligned against the current threat posed by the People’s Republic of China,” lieutenant colonel Marty Meiners, a Pentagon spokesman, said in a statement.

The planning for troop expansion had been going on for months, prior to the US Air Force shooting down the suspected Chinese “spy” balloon that traversed North America.

The balloon row further plummeted US-China ties, prompting secretary of state Antony Blinken to postpone a planned trip to Beijing for long-awaited meetings.