Taiwan Defense Delegation to Meet U.S. Pacific Officials in Hawaii: Report

Taiwan's defense minister confirmed on Tuesday a newspaper report that said a delegation of army officials is currently in the United States for an annual military forum.

Eight senior officials led by Republic of China Army (ROCA) Gen. Hsu Yen-pu departed Taipei on October 9 to attend the Association of the U.S. Army's (AUSA) annual meeting and exposition, which is being held from Monday to Wednesday in Washington, D.C., according to Taiwan's United Daily News (UDN).

AUSA is the largest army exposition in North America. Events include defense industry presentations as well as panel discussions and seminars, its website said.

Asked about the low-key visit, Taiwan defense chief Chiu Kuo-cheng said it was part of a "regular exchange between the two sides" that takes place on an annual basis.

The UDN report, which cited U.S.-based sources, said ROCA Commander Hsu and his group would also travel to Hawaii for meetings with senior American officials including Adm. John Aquilino, head of U.S. Indo-Pacific Command (USINDOPACOM), and Lt. Gen. Charles Flynn, commander of U.S. Army Pacific Command (USARPAC).

The meetings with the U.S.'s Pacific leadership include year-end talks between the Taiwanese and American army officials, who are expected to exchange views on plans for 2022, the report said. According to UDN, U.S. Marines who were reported to have been training Taiwan's special forces and amphibious units for at least a year were deployed from USINDOPACOM.

Reached by Newsweek on Wednesday, Pentagon spokesperson John Supple said he didn'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 [PRC]."

He described the U.S.'s support for Taiwan as "strong, principled, and bipartisan," going on to cite the "one China" policy it has maintained for more than four decades.

"The U.S. defense relationship with Taiwan is guided by the Taiwan Relations Act and based on an assessment of Taiwan's defense needs and the threat posed by the PRC," Supple said.

Taiwan Army Officials To Meet USINDOPACOM Leaders
Republic of China Army battle tanks and armored vehicles take part in a live-fire anti-landing drill during Taiwan’s 37th annual Han Kuang military exercise in Penghu on September 15, 2021. Taiwan Military News Agency / Ministry of National Defense

The unofficial U.S.-Taiwan relationship has always had a security element, but it is never emphasized above deep cultural and economic ties. Despite the lack of formal diplomatic relations between Washington and Taipei, the U.S. remains Taiwan's strongest international backer and the only nation that regularly supplies the island with advanced defensive arms, made possible under provisions of the Taiwan Relations Act of 1979.

The U.S. commitment to help Taiwan with its self-defense capabilities does not, however, extend to the level of a security guarantee. America is not legally bound to defend Taiwan from an attack by China, despite the Chinese military's growing capability to seize Taiwan and punch a hole in the middle of the first island chain.

During a March hearing to become commander of USINDOPACOM, Aquilino told U.S. lawmakers that the prospect of a Chinese invasion of Taiwan was "much closer to us than most think."

The U.S. Navy admiral told the Senate Armed Services Committee that a successful occupation of Taiwan by China would dent American credibility in Asia, home of U.S. defense treaty allies Japan, South Korea and the Philippines.