Pentagon Blocks Request to Send Marine Embassy Guards to Taiwan

Marine Staff Sgt. Scott Pence, U.S. Embassy Marine detachment commander for marine security in Luxembourg, salutes during the Veteran’s Day ceremony at the Luxembourg American Cemetery and Memoria.. (U.S. Air Force/Senior Airman Nick Wilson)
Marine Staff Sgt. Scott Pence, U.S. Embassy Marine detachment commander for marine security in Luxembourg, salutes during the Veteran’s Day ceremony at the Luxembourg American Cemetery and Memoria.. (U.S. Air Force/Senior Airman Nick Wilson)

Defense Department officials have declined a State Department request to send about a dozen Marines to guard a de facto embassy in Taiwan, Military.com has confirmed.

Military officials were planning to send a squad-sized Marine Security Guard detachment to Taipei City, Taiwan's capital, as soon as next month, a defense official said. That plan has since been scrapped after the State Department's request was denied by Pentagon officials, the source added.

The move was first reported Thursday by CNN.

The State Department had requested the Marines be sent to the American Institute in Taiwan earlier this summer. It would have marked the first time in nearly four decades that Marines would have guarded a diplomatic post there.

There's no U.S. embassy in Taiwan. The U.S. recognizes the "one-China policy," preventing direct diplomatic or military exchanges between Washington and Taipei. Officials in Beijing balked at the idea of basing Marines at the diplomatic post in Taiwan, which they said violated "political preconditions for China-U.S. relations."

"The U.S. ... knows it should exercise caution on this issue to avoid affecting overall bilateral ties," Lu Kang, a Chinese ministry spokesman, said in June.

State Department officials declined to answer questions about who denied the request and why, adding only that they "do not discuss specific security matters concerning the protection of our facilities or personnel."

CNN reported that Defense Secretary Jim Mattis made the call to reject the request over resource constraints. It wasn't done to avoid irritating the communist government, the outlet reported.

The American Institute in Taiwan recently doubled in size following the addition of a $250 million facility. It houses about 450 diplomatic staff members.

-- Gina Harkins can be reached at gina.harkins@military.com. Follow her on Twitter at @ginaaharkins.

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