Tsai Ing-wen said that Taiwan is conducting military cooperation with the United States in the interests of improving its defense capability.
A small number of American troops are in Taiwan to train Taiwanese military personnel, Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen said in an interview with CNN, confirming the presence of American troops on the self-governing island, which China considers part of its territory.
Tensions between Taiwan and China have intensified in recent weeks amid increased military and political pressure from Beijing, which does not rule out the possibility of using force to establish control over the island.
“We have a wide range of cooperation with the United States aimed at improving our defense capability,” Tsai Ing-wen said in an interview with CNN, which was broadcast on Thursday.
When asked how many American troops are deployed in Taiwan, she said: “Not as much as it was thought.”
China has recently repeatedly sent combat aircraft to Taiwan’s air defense identification zone.
“Taiwan’s independence is a dead-end path, and those who support it will have no way back,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said when asked about the comments of the head of the Taiwanese administration.
“The U.S. should adhere to the one-China principle… and not those ideas that they come up with unilaterally,” he said, adding that the United States should stop military and official interactions with Taiwan.
Although several Taiwanese and international media, including Reuters, have previously reported on similar training events involving American military personnel, official confirmation could further aggravate relations between the United States and China at a time when Beijing is conducting military exercises near Taiwan.
When asked about Tsai Ing-wen’s comments, Taiwan’s Defense Minister Chiu Kuo-cheng told reporters that the U.S. and Taiwanese armed forces have been interacting “quite a lot and often” for a long time.
“During these contacts, you can discuss any topic,” he said, adding that Tsai Ing-wen did not talk about the permanent deployment of American forces in Taiwan.
“There is no connection between the interaction of military personnel and the deployment of troops,” he explained, when lawmakers suggested that the permanent presence of the U.S. military could be a pretext for China’s attack on the island.