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Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen confirmed for the first time that the United States has a military presence on the island “to train Taiwanese forces”, thus corroborating recently published reports on the matter.
In an interview with CNN, Tsai pointed out that there is a “wide range of cooperation” with the United States aimed at “increasing the defense capability” of Taiwan, but avoided specifying the specific number of American troops on the island, limiting herself to saying that there are less than what is believed.
Earlier this month, The Wall Street Journal had reported, citing anonymous sources, that a detachment of about 20 members of the Special Forces and the Marine Corps had been on the island for at least a year to train Taiwanese ground and maritime troops.
And last week, U.S. President Joe Biden declared that “the United States is committed” to defend Taiwan militarily if China decides to attack the island, which is neither confirmed nor ruled out in the Taiwan Relations Act resulting from the status quo created in 1979 between China and the United States.
In her interview with CNN yesterday, Tsai declared that, “given the long-term relationship” between Taiwan and the United States, she has “faith that the United States would defend” the island in the event of an attack by China.
Tsai assured that the threat from Beijing “grows every day”, declarations that come a few weeks after record incursions of Chinese planes in the Taiwanese Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ), which caused relations between Taipei and Beijing to go through “their worst moment in four decades”, according to the island’s Defense Minister.
The president also said she was willing, in the hope of “peaceful coexistence”, to a hypothetical meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping, given that “more communication would be helpful to reduce misunderstandings” between the two sides.
On Tuesday, Secretary of State Antony Blinken encouraged all United Nations member states to join Washington “in supporting Taiwan’s robust, meaningful participation throughout the UN system and in the international community” and described the island as a “democratic success story” and a “valued partner” and “trusted friend” of the United States.
The United States has no formal diplomatic relations with Taiwan, but maintains unofficial ties with the island, to which it supplies defense resources.
Beijing, for its part, insists on “reunifying” the People’s Republic with the island, which has been governed autonomously since the Kuomintang (KMT) Nationalists retreated there in 1949 after losing the civil war against the Communists and continued with the Republic of China regime, which culminated in the transition to democracy in the 1990s.