A year ago, then-President Donald Trump was in the middle of his reelection campaign, keeping up a schedule and pace that many younger men would not be able to keep — and certainly one that far and away exceeded that of his Democratic opponent, ‘Sleepy Joe’ Biden.
But at the same time, Trump had a superpower to run, and he knew from years of experience that our major competitor in Asia, China, was still plotting to take over Taiwan by force while at the same time building a military capable of doing so.
If anyone was good to Taiwan, it was Trump; at one point during his busy campaign schedule, he authorized the dispatch of U.S. Special Forces and a contingent of Marines to the island democracy to help train small units of the Taiwanese army in defensive warfare, according to a report published this week.
“A U.S. special-operations unit and a contingent of Marines have been secretly operating in Taiwan to train military forces there, U.S. officials said, part of efforts to shore up the island’s defenses as concern regarding potential Chinese aggression mounts,” The Wall Street Journal reported in a bombshell.
“About two dozen members of U.S. special-operations and support troops are conducting training for small units of Taiwan’s ground forces, the officials said. The U.S. Marines are working with local maritime forces on small-boat training. The American forces have been operating in Taiwan for at least a year, the officials said,” the paper added.
The report comes as China has ramped up air sorties aimed at intimidating Taiwan, with more than 150 planes directed towards the island — an unprecedented number — last week alone. “The Chinese aircraft have included J-16 jet fighters, H-6 strategic bombers and Y-8 submarine-spotting aircraft and have set a record for such sorties, according to the Taiwan government,” the paper said, describing the planes dispatched.
BizPacReview adds more details and background:
News that U.S. forces have been training Taiwan’s military comes as China has been increasingly belligerent towards the island democracy, which Beijing considers a renegade province of the mainland some 70 years after a civil war forced the then-ruling Kuomintang, or the Chinese Nationalist Party, to flee to what was at one time called the Republic of Formosa. Today, the Kuomintang is the leading opposition party in Taiwan.
The increase in military activity by China led President Joe Biden to discuss the situation with his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, last month, in which he said both men consented to abide by the “Taiwan agreement.”
“I’ve spoken with Xi about Taiwan. We agree we will abide by the Taiwan agreement,” Biden told reporters. “That’s where we are and I made it clear that I don’t think he should be doing anything other than abiding by the agreement.”
Two things: Most people weren’t sure what Biden meant about a “Taiwan agreement” unless it’s the 1979 Taiwan Relations Act which pledges U.S. military support to the country and urges a peaceful resolution to the situation. Also, that phone call took place Sept. 9; Chinese aggression has only increased since then, giving the distinct impression that President Xi Jinping isn’t worried about Joe Biden or what he might do if Beijing attacks at some point in the near future.
So it is becoming clear that a) Trump saw the danger China is increasingly posing to Taiwan; and b) China does not respect his successor, Joe Biden.
Trump also appears to have recognized that Taiwan was in great need of specialized U.S. assistance, as noted by military readiness experts.
“Taiwan badly neglected its national defense for the first 15 years or so of this century, buying too much expensive equipment that will get destroyed in the first hours of a conflict, and too little in the way of cheaper but lethal systems—antiship missiles, smart sea mines and well-trained reserve and auxiliary forces—that could seriously complicate Beijing’s war plans,” Matt Pottinger, a distinguished visiting fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution and a deputy national security adviser during the Trump administration, told the WSJ.