For the first time since Washington severed diplomatic ties with Taipei in 1979, Taiwan has released details on the extent of its military cooperation with the US. A biennial report issued by Taiwan’s Defense Ministry said over 600 US troops had visited Taiwan for “military exchange programs” since 2019.
Between September 2019 and August of this year, 618 US troops traveled to Taiwan for 107 different training programs, and 542 Taiwanese soldiers visited the US for a total of 175 training programs. During the same period, 1,639 personnel from both sides participated in 102 programs that were held virtually.
“Based on the Taiwan Relations Act and Six Assurances, our two countries have established multiple military exchange channels to promote a variety of defense exchange and cooperation, so as to jointly maintain the security of the Taiwan Strait and the stability in the region,” the report reads.
The report comes after Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen confirmed the presence of US troops on the island, making her the first Taiwanese leader to do so since 1979. The fact that US troops have been deploying to Taiwan for training purposes is not a secret, but the official acknowledgment from Taipei signals a change in policy and is viewed as a provocation towards Beijing.
The US has sold weapons to Taiwan throughout the past four decades but does not share a mutual defense treaty with the island. President Biden caused a stir last month when he said the US has a “commitment” to defend Taiwan in the event of a Chinese invasion, but US officials were quick to downplay the comment and said it did not mean a change in policy.
Even though it would risk nuclear war, the idea of going to war with China over Taiwan is becoming increasingly popular in Washington. Some Democrats and Republicans are even ready to give President Biden war powers that would authorize him to intervene if China moves to take Taiwan by force.