Taiwanese defense minister says training ‘part of the cycle of exchanges’ with US
ISTANBUL (AA) – After confirming the presence of the US soldiers in the island nation, Taiwan on Tuesday revealed that 40 of its troops are being trained by American forces in Guam.
Taiwanese Defense Minister Chiu Kuo-cheng, however, said: “Exchanges and cooperation between Taiwan and the US have been well established for many years.”
Asked about Taiwanese soldiers in newly built US base in Pacific Island territory of Guam, the minister replied: “This (training) is also a part of the cycle of exchanges… There is no need to speculate,” daily Taiwan News reported.
This comes after Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen last week confirmed that the US soldiers were deployed in the island nation for “training purposes.”
Soldiers from Taiwan Marine Corps’ 99th brigade are said to be undergoing “one month of training as part of joint Taiwan-US amphibious landing exercises called Lu Hou or Roar” where they are reportedly conducting air assault and urban warfare exercises.
“Threat from China is increasing every day,” Tsai had said in an interview with an American news channel, adding that dialogue with Beijing would allow Taiwan “to co-exist peacefully” with China.
Beijing claims Taiwan, an island nation of 24 million people, is its breakaway province, while Taipei has insisted on its independence since 1949 and has diplomatic relations with at least 15 countries.
Tensions have recently escalated in the Taiwan Strait, where China sent more than 150 sorties into what Taiwan calls its air defense identification zone.
Asked whether the US soldiers are deployed in Taiwan, the law professor-turned-president responded in affirmative. “Yes,” she said, but did not give the number of the soldiers deployed.
First time held on Fangliao beach in the southern Pingtung County in 1958, the Lu Hou military exercises continued to be held until 1979 – the year when Washington moved its diplomatic and official military ties to Beijing.
In 2017, however, the then-Barack Obama administration signed the National Defense Authorization Act for the military exchanges between Washington and Taipei.
The American Institute in Taiwan – the main organ which represents the US in Taiwan – later took up the job to form a special team to coordinate small-scale military exchanges between the two sides. Taiwan has bought arms and weaponry worth billions of dollars from Washington.
It was in November last year that a special US forces team landed in Taipei for a brief period but is said to be on the island since then, “training” their Taiwanese counterparts, angering Beijing which has called out the US for “interfering into the internal affairs of China.”