The U.S. is disputing reports that Marine special operators are spending a month in Taiwan to train local forces -- a move that likely would have drawn strong criticism from China.
Taiwan News reported Monday that Raiders from Marine Forces Special Operations Command were kicking off four weeks of training at Tsoying Naval Base in Kaohsiung. The English-language news site said Taiwan's Naval Command confirmed reports that a contingent of Marines arrived at the invitation of local military, and would be training troops in assault boat and speedboat infiltration operations.
It would mark the first public confirmation of a U.S. military exchange in Taiwan since diplomatic relations ceased in 1979, the site reported.
But a U.S. defense official said there are currently no Marines in Taiwan.
"The reports about U.S. Marines on Taiwan are inaccurate," said John Supple, a Defense Department spokesman at the Pentagon. "The United States remains committed to our One-China Policy based on the three Joint Communiques, Taiwan Relations Act, and Six Assurances."
Tensions have been high between Taiwan and China, raising fears of a potential military clash. China has engaged in a string of destabilizing activities aimed at both Taiwan and the broader region, Supple said, that increase the risk of miscalculation -- including military provocations, interference with Taipei's diplomatic partners and economic pressure.
The U.S. will continue to make defense articles and services available to Taiwan, he said, "in such quantity as may be necessary to enable Taiwan to maintain sufficient self-defense capabilities."
"We urge Beijing to cease its military, diplomatic and economic pressure targeted at Taiwan and to engage in meaningful dialogue," Supple said. "... Any resolution of cross-Strait differences must be peaceful and based on the will of the people on both sides."
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo riled China this week when he told conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt that "Taiwan has not been a part of China."
Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin hit back, saying Taiwan is an inalienable part of China and that Pompeo was further damaging Sino-U.S. ties, Reuters reported.
"We solemnly tell Pompeo and his ilk that any behavior that undermines China's core interests and interferes with China's domestic affairs will be met with a resolute counterattack by China," he said without elaborating, according to Reuters.