Marines have been in the country for the past year instructing soldiers how to repel a possible invasion by the Communist state
By Nick Allen for the Telegraph in Washington 7 October 2021
US special forces have been clandestinely operating in Taiwan as tensions mount over a possible Chinese invasion, it has emerged.
A group of two dozen special operations soldiers and US Marines has been training members of the Taiwanese military to improve their chances of offering a defence against an attack.
The US group has been there for at least a year and is training both Taiwanese ground troops and maritime forces, including those operating small boats, US officials told the Wall Street Journal.
It comes as the US and China - the world's two largest economies and pre-eminent military and political powers - are at loggerheads over an array of issues including Taiwan, trade disputes, human rights, the origin of the coronavirus pandemic, as well as the US decision to sell nuclear-powered submarines to Australia.
Over the past week, Taiwan reported 148 Chinese air force planes in its air defence zone, and its defence chief described tensions between Taipei and Beijing as at their worst in more than 40 years.
CIA announces new focus on China
As tensions ramped up, the CIA announced it was creating a new group to focus solely on gathering intelligence on China, calling it the most important threat the US faces.
Meanwhile, the White House said Joe Biden would hold a virtual meeting with Xi Jinping before the end of the year, an apparent attempt at calming the waters.
Taiwan operates as an independent democratic country but the Chinese Communist Party claims it is part of China.
The US training was thought to include how to defend against potential amphibious landings by the Chinese military.
As the presence of US special forces in Taiwan emerged, the Chinese foreign ministry said: "China will take all necessary steps to protect its sovereignty and territorial integrity."
But a Pentagon spokesman said: "China has stepped up efforts to intimidate and pressure Taiwan, including increasing military activities conducted in the vicinity of Taiwan, which we believe are destabilising and increase the risk of miscalculation."
Announcing its new China Mission Centre, the CIA said it was formed "to address the global challenge posed by the People’s Republic of China that cuts across all of the agency’s mission areas".
William Burns, the CIA director, said: "Throughout our history, CIA has stepped up to meet whatever challenges come our way. And now, facing our toughest geopolitical test in a new era of great power rivalry, CIA will be at the forefront of this effort."
He said the China Mission Centre would 'further strengthen our collective work on the most important geopolitical threat we face in the 21st Century, an increasingly adversarial Chinese government."
The CIA also announced that it would be recruiting more Chinese speakers.
The agency's Iran and North Korea mission centres, created during Donald Trump's administration, are meanwhile being subsumed by other units.
Senator Marco Rubio, the senior Republican on the Senate intelligence committee, said: "The threat posed by the Chinese Communist Party is real and growing.
"Every part of our government needs to reflect this great power competition in message, structure, and action."
Earlier this week Jake Sullivan, Mr Biden's national security adviser, met for six hours at an airport hotel in Zurich with China's top diplomat Yang Jiechi.
The White House said Mr Sullivan raised US concerns over Taiwan, and other issues including Hong Kong, and they agreed to the virtual meeting between Mr Biden and Mr Xi.
A US official said: "We do have an agreement in principle to hold a virtual bilateral [summit] before the end of the year."
The two leaders held a telephone call in September but had not spoken for seven months before that.
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Taiwanese special forces personnel walk behind an armoured personnel carrier during a military drill in Taichung, central Taiwan Credit: Sam Yeh/AFP