Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen confirmed that a small number of US forces are in the country to train with soldiers. Now, China’s foreign ministry has fired back, saying the US is “stirring up trouble”.
Wang Wenbin, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman said in a briefing Beijing “firmly” opposes the US’ training with Taiwan.
When asked about Ms Tsai’s comments at a press briefing Thursday, Mr Wang stressed the importance of the “One China” principle as the foundation of US-China relations.
He said: “We firmly oppose any form of official exchanges and military contacts between the United States and Taiwan, oppose US interference in China’s internal affairs, and attempts to provoke and stir up trouble.“
Mr Wang also accused the US of destabilising the region by “flexing its muscles” in the Taiwan Strait and warned that “Taiwan independence is a dead end.”
Ms Tsai’s confirmed to CNN in an interview on Tuesday that Taiwan does have US troops stationed in the country, but stressed it is “not as many as people thought”.
The broadcaster reported that US Defence Department records show the number of US troops in Taiwan increased from 10 in 2018 to 32 earlier this year.
The Taiwanese President added Taipei has “a wide range of cooperation with the US,” with the aim of increasing the island’s defence capabilities.
She also said she believes in the event of an attack from mainland China, the US would help Taiwan “given the long-term relationship we have with the US.”
Chiu Kuo-cheng, Taiwan Defence Minister, also told reporters Taiwan-U.S. military interactions were “quite a lot and quite frequent” and had been going on for a long time.
He said: “During these exchanges, any topic can be discussed.”
Mr Chiu added Ms Tsai did not say that US forces are permanently based, or garrisoned, in Taiwan, in response to lawmaker questions that if they were then this could be a pretext for China to attack the island.
He added: “There is no connection between personnel exchanges and the stationing of troops.”
Under the ‘One China’ principle, Beijing regards Taiwan as a rightful part of the mainland.
While the US has no official diplomatic ties with the island, it sells arms to Taiwan under the Taiwan Relations Act, which dictates that the US must help Taipei defend itself.
Ms Tsai recently said on Taiwan’s National Day Taipei could not be forced to follow “the path China had laid out for it”.
She added: “There should be absolutely no illusions that the Taiwanese people will bow to pressure.”
It comes as Joe Biden said the US had a firm commitment to help Taiwan defend itself in the event of a Chinese attack.
During a CNN town hall, the US President was asked whether the US would come to the defence of Taiwan, and said: “Yes, we have a commitment to do that.”
Later a White House spokesperson said Biden was not announcing any change in US policy.
They said: “The US defence relationship with Taiwan is guided by the Taiwan Relations Act.
“We will uphold our commitment under the act, we will continue to support Taiwan’s self-defence, and we will continue to oppose any unilateral changes to the status quo.”
China’s foreign ministry also urged the US to “avoid sending any wrong signals”.