TAIPEI, Taiwan — The United States is planning on “cooperation” between its National Guard and Taiwan’s military, Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen said on Tuesday, deepening security ties in the face of what Taipei’s government complains is a rising threat from China.
The United States is Chinese-claimed Taiwan’s most important international supporter and arms supplier, despite the lack of formal diplomatic ties. China has been stepping up its military activities near Taiwan to assert its sovereignty claims, sending 30 warplanes into the island’s air defense identification zone on Monday in the largest such incursion since January.
China’s military said last week it had recently conducted an exercise around Taiwan as a “solemn warning” against its “collusion” with the United States.
That came after U.S. President Joe Biden angered China by appearing to signal a change in a U.S. policy of “strategic ambiguity” on Taiwan by saying the United States would get involved militarily if China were to attack the island. U.S. officials said there had been no change in policy.
Meeting visiting U.S. Senator Tammy Duckworth at her office in Taipei, Tsai noted that Duckworth was one of the main sponsors of the Taiwan Partnership Act, which has received bipartisan support in the U.S. Congress though has yet to become law.
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“As a result, the U.S. Department of Defense is now proactively planning cooperation between the U.S. National Guard and Taiwan’s defense forces,” Tsai said, without giving details.
Taiwanese media has previously reported that Taiwan could partner with Hawaii’s National Guard for the program.
“We look forward to closer and deeper Taiwan-U.S. cooperation on matters of regional security,” Tsai added.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian criticized the surprise visit by Duckworth and other lawmakers as a violation of American policy on Taiwan, saying they should “refrain from sending any wrong signals to the ‘Taiwan independence’ separatist forces.”
“China will continue to take effective measures to resolutely safeguard national sovereignty and territorial integrity,” he added.
Duckworth said she was visiting to reiterate that her country stands with Taiwan, and that there was “tremendous” support for the island from U.S. lawmakers.
Still, last week Taiwan was not included in the United States’ Indo-Pacific Economic Framework for Prosperity, an economic agreement among 14 countries in the region, despite its lobbying efforts.
Tsai said Taiwan will keep expressing its willingness to participate.
“In the near future, we look forward to Taiwan and the United States working together in taking new steps to develop concrete plans that further deepen our economic partnership.”