U.S. forces have been secretly training Taiwan’s military forces in the country for at least a year amid concerns of Chinese aggression toward the self-ruled island, The Wall Street Journal reported Thursday.
Roughly two dozen members of U.S. special operations and support troops are training small units of Taiwanese ground forces, while a contingent of the U.S. Marines is helping local maritime forces with small-boat training, U.S. officials told the Journal.
The Pentagon did not immediately respond to a request for comment from The Hill.
The report comes as China has stepped up its aggressive military activity near Taiwan, flying nearly 150 warplanes near the island in the past week in an attempt to intimidate a country that it has long viewed as part of its territory. Taiwan, for its part, is preparing for possible war against China.
Beijing has also built up its military for years and has threatened to take control of the island by force if necessary, which has concerned U.S. officials.
A pair of top U.S. admirals warned earlier this year that China could try to invade Taiwan sooner than previously thought.
Adm. Philip Davidson, the former head of U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, told senators in March that China could try to invade Taiwan “in the next six years,” while his successor, Adm. John Aquilino, told senators “this problem is much closer to us than most think.”
And Taiwanese Defense Minister Chiu Kuo-cheng on Wednesday said tensions with China are the worst they have been in 40 years. He predicted that Beijing already has the capability to invade Taiwan and could mount a “full-scale” invasion by 2025.
In a statement, China’s Foreign Ministry pressed the United States to stick to prior agreements and to stop its military aid to Taiwan, noting that “China will take all necessary steps to protect its sovereignty and territorial integrity.”
The U.S. has a unique relationship with Taiwan, providing military and other types of support since China’s Nationalist government fled there in 1949 following the Chinese Civil War.
Washington has held back from creating official ties with Taipei as part of agreements with Beijing established since 1979. Under those agreements, the United States agreed to cut formal ties with Taiwan.
But with U.S.-China ties strained over the COVID-19 pandemic, trade, human rights and security, Washington has increasingly come to Taipei’s aid.