US special ops troops training Taiwanese

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Small numbers of US special operations forces have been rotating into Taiwan to carry out training of the Taiwanese military, sources familiar with the matter say.

The Pentagon, which does not generally disclose details about US training or advising of Taiwanese forces, refused to confirm the deployment.

"I don't have any comments on specific operations, engagements, or training, but I would like to highlight that our support for and defence relationship with Taiwan remains aligned against the current threat posed by the People's Republic of China," Pentagon spokesman John Supple said.

The sources declined to say how long the training had been going on but suggested it pre-dated the Biden administration, which came into office in January.

While at least one Asian media outlet has previously reported on such training, any kind of official US confirmation could further aggravate US-China relations at a time Beijing is carrying out repeated military exercises near Taiwan.

The Wall Street Journal published details on the training, citing unnamed US officials, earlier on Thursday.

"I wouldn't rule out the possibility that Beijing is aware of this," said Bonnie Glaser, director of the Asia Program at the German Marshall Fund, noting a social media post during the Trump administration about training by special operations forces.

"Making this public will compel the Chinese to react, and they will likely do so by stepping up pressure on Taiwan."

Ami Bera, a Democrat who leads the House Foreign Affairs' subcommittee on Asia, was asked at a defence conference if he had been made aware of the deployment.

"Not particularly this deployment, if I call it a deployment. I think we have special operators and others there, and we have in the past that are there training (Taiwan's) military, working with them," Bera said.

Republican Senator Thom Tillis, who is on the Senate Armed Services Committee, told the same event he had not been made specifically aware and had only seen public reports, but added: "Actually I would be happier if that number was in the hundreds".

The United States is Taiwan's largest supplier of weaponry and has long offered some degree of training on weapons systems, as well as detailed advice on ways to strengthen its military to guard against an invasion by China's Peoples Liberation Army.

China sees Taiwan as a renegade province and has not ruled out taking the island by force.

Chinese military aircraft have in recent days repeatedly flown through Taiwan's air defence identification zone.

The Taiwanese government has denounced China's military exercises and says it will defend the island's freedom and democracy, insisting that only Taiwan's people can decide their future.

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