The US has been secretly offering military training to Taiwanese troops, multiple media outlets reported on Friday.
The news comes amid the dramatic escalation across Taiwan Strait, with China launching the biggest ever air encroachment so far.
President Trump Sent Trainers
For at least a year a small contingent of US military trainers have been offering training to the troops, the Guardian said in a report.
About two dozen US special forces soldiers and an unspecified number of marines are now training Taiwanese forces, the Wall Street Journal reported, according to the IANS.
The trainers were initially sent to Taiwan by the administration of former President Donald Trump.
Defend Freedom and Democratic Way of Life
Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen said on Friday that Taiwan will "do whatever it takes to defend its freedom and democratic way of life". "Taiwan does not seek military confrontation," she told a security forum in Taipei.
"It hopes for a peaceful, stable, predictable and mutually beneficial coexistence with its neighbours. But Taiwan will also do whatever it takes to defend its freedom and democratic way of life."
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US troops have not been permanently based on the island since 1979, when Washington established diplomatic relations with China.
Pentagon spokesman John Supple would not comment directly on the report, but noted that "our support for and defense relationship with Taiwan remains aligned against the current threat" from China, the Guardian said.
"It is an important step but it's intended primarily not to be provocative but actually improve the defence capability of Taiwan's forces," said Jacob Stokes, a fellow of the Indo-Pacific security programme of the Centre for a New American Security. "There's always this balance between symbolism and substance, and I think by doing it quietly it's meant to be more substance."
Meanwhile, the Pentagon, which does not usually disclose details about U.S. training or advising of Taiwan forces, did not comment on the latest news, according to Reuters.
"I don't have any comments on specific operations, engagements, or training, but I would like to highlight that our support for and defense relationship with Taiwan remains aligned against the current threat posed by the People's Republic of China," said Pentagon spokesman John Supple.
Use of Force to Annex the Island
China considers self-ruling Taiwan as a renegade province and hasn't stood down on the possibility of using force to annex the island. The US recognized the People's Republic of China and started diplomatic relations with Beijing in the early 1970s, but continued cordial unofficial relations with Taiwan. However, no US president or president-elect has held official talks with a Taiwanese leader since Washington adopted the One-China policy in 1979.