TAIPEI, October 28 (Reuters) – A small number of US forces are in Taiwan to train with Taiwanese soldiers, President Tsai Ing-wen said in an interview with CNN, confirming the presence of US troops on the island. autonomous that China considers its own.
Tensions between Taiwan and China, which does not rule out taking the island by force, have intensified in recent weeks as Beijing intensifies military and political pressure.
“We have a wide range of cooperation with the United States aimed at increasing our defense capacity,” Tsai told CNN in the interview broadcast Thursday.
When asked how many US military personnel were deployed in Taiwan, she only replied that it was “not as many as people thought”.
The confirmation comes as China sharply increases military pressure on Taiwan, including repeated missions by Chinese fighter jets to the Taiwan Air Defense Identification Zone.
“Taiwan’s independence is a dead end, and there will also be no turning back for those who support it,” said Wang Wenbin, spokesman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry, when asked about the comments. Tsai.
“The United States should respect the principle of one China (…) and not whatever it concocts unilaterally,” he said, adding that the United States should cease its military and official interactions. with Taiwan.
While several Taiwanese and international media, including Reuters, have previously reported such training with US troops, official confirmation could further worsen US-China relations as Beijing conducts military exercises near Taiwan.
When asked about Tsai’s comment, Taiwanese Defense Minister Chiu Kuo-cheng told reporters that Taiwanese-US military interactions were “quite numerous and quite frequent” and had been going on for a long time.
“During these exchanges, any subject can be discussed,” he said, adding that Tsai did not say that US forces were permanently based or garrisoned in Taiwan, in response to questions. lawmakers that if they were, it could be a pretext for China to attack the island.
“There is no connection between the exchange of personnel and the stationing of troops,” Chiu said.
The United States withdrew its permanently based forces in Taiwan when it severed diplomatic relations with Taipei in favor of Beijing in 1979.
The United States, like most countries, does not have formal diplomatic relations with Taiwan, but is its most important international ally and primary arms supplier. Taiwan sends its F-16 pilots to train at Luke Air Force Base in Arizona.
Tsai has declared Taiwan to be an independent country and has repeatedly promised to defend its democracy and freedom.
Reporting by Ben Blanchard and Yimou Lee; Additional reporting by Gabriel Crossley; Editing by William Mallard and Mike Harrison
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