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US already has 200 military advisors in Taiwan, as risk of war increases

By Ben Marquis
|
April 19, 2023

Amid sharply rising tensions with China, the United States appears to remain committed to assisting the defense of the independent island nation of Taiwan, which the communist regime in Beijing claims as a rebellious breakaway province of its own sovereign territory.

Recent reports out of Taiwan indicate that around 200 U.S. military advisers have been deployed to the island to help bolster the Taiwanese military's combat readiness and training procedures, Newsweek reported.

"Consistent with the Taiwan Relations Act, the United States makes available to Taiwan defense articles and services necessary to enable it to maintain a sufficient self-defense capability," Pentagon spokesman Lt. Col. Martin Meiners told the outlet. "We don't have a comment on specific operations, engagements, or training, but I would highlight that our support for, and defense relationship with, Taiwan remains aligned against the current threat posed by the People's Republic of China."

Ramp-up in adviser deployments previously signaled

The revelation seemingly confirms reports from February that the U.S. military was prepared to substantially boost the number of advisers it would deploy to Taiwan for such purposes.

In late February, the New York Post and other sources reported that the U.S. military was making final preparations to dispatch anywhere from 100-200 additional U.S. troops to Taiwan to serve in advisory roles.

That would be significantly more troops on the ground in Taiwan than the estimated 30 advisers who were stationed there last year and in years past, who were typically comprised of U.S. Marines and U.S. Special Operations soldiers.

The reports also indicated a separate but related ramp-up of Taiwanese troops receiving training in the U.S., such as with the Michigan National Guard as one example.

Focused on training of new recruits and reservists

The Taiwan News reported Monday that of the approximately 200 U.S. military advisors now deployed to Taiwan, around 80 percent of them were members of the U.S. Army, while the remaining 20 percent were "specialized instructors" from the U.S. Air Force and U.S. Navy.

The Army troops, particularly those with combat experience, would be predominately stationed at new recruit training centers and with reserve brigades and are tasked with evaluating training procedures and making recommendations for improvements to make the Taiwanese military more combat effective.

That report also noted that U.S. military advisers were also evaluating a range of issues at Taiwan's Air Force bases, including the effectiveness of bunkers and other protective facilities for aircraft and ammunition and efforts to guard against Chinese satellite observation, and making recommendations for improvements.

For now, at least, it appears that the advisers will be mostly focused on the basic fundamentals of training for new recruits and reserve brigades, and it is expected that the advisers will issue reports with formal recommendations at some point later this year.

Advisers and recommendations welcomed

The Taipei Times reported Wednesday that the Taiwanese Ministry of National Defense said in a statement that it welcomed the deployment of around 200 U.S. military advisers and was ready to receive the input and consultations of the trainers.

Ministry spokesman Sun Li-fang expressed Taiwan's appreciation for the efforts of "an allied country in boosting the nation’s armed forces by means of military training," but declined to divulge any additional details.

A spokesperson for the American Institute in Taiwan, which serves as a de facto embassy for the U.S., also declined to provide specific details on the deployment of U.S. military advisers but did stress that the U.S. remained committed to helping Taiwan safeguard its independence that is perpetually threatened by China.

"We don’t have a comment on specific operations, engagements or training, but I would highlight that our support for and defense relationship with Taiwan remain aligned against the current threat posed by the People’s Republic of China," the spokesperson said. "Our commitment to Taiwan is rock-solid and contributes to the maintenance of peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait and within the region."

Taiwan seeks to bolster number of troops

Newsweek noted that this substantial increase in the number of U.S. military advisers deployed to Taiwan comes as the government in Taipei is considering its own plans to increase the length of mandatory military service for Taiwanese citizens from four months to one year, a policy change that was first proposed last year.

The outlet noted that Taiwan's military force numbered around 188,000 volunteer troops plus an average of around 10 percent of that in conscripted mandatory service that could be bolstered to around 70,000 in the coming years, in addition to an estimated reserve force of around 2.3 million.