Gen. Hsu Yen-pu leading 8-member delegation to US for annual event, bilateral discussions
ANKARA (AA) – The Taiwanese military chief has flown to the US as tensions with China persist in the Taiwan Strait.
However, the top defense official said Gen. Hsu Yen-pu’s trip is part of an “annual exchange program” between the militaries of the US and Taiwan.
Addressing reporters in Tapei on Tuesday, Defense Minister Chiu Kuo-cheng described the trip as “necessary for bilateral exchanges” without divulging any further details, daily Taiwan Focus reported.
Hsu is leading a delegation of eight senior Taiwanese military officers to Washington where it is expected to attend the Association of the United States Army’s (AUSA) annual meeting starting Tuesday.
They left for the US on Sunday amid intense tensions with mainland China which has stepped up its rhetoric to unify the island nation with Beijing.
China’s President Xi Jinping Sunday said that “reunification with Taiwan must be fulfilled peacefully.”
China claims Taiwan as a “breakaway province” while Taipei has insisted on its independence since 1949 and has diplomatic relations with at least 15 countries.
However, President Tsai Ing-wen of Taiwan said the island nation would “not act rashly but would bolster its defenses to ensure that nobody can force Taiwan to take the path China has laid out for us.”
Beijing denounced Tsai’s speech, saying it “incited confrontation.”
In the past few weeks, the Chinese People’s Liberation Army has flown dozens of military sorties across the Taiwan Strait, leaving Taipei complaining about the violation of Taiwan’s air defense identification zone (ADIZ).
The ADIZ is a buffer zone outside a Taiwan’s airspace where it has the right to ask incoming aircraft to identify themselves.
The visit coincides with reports that US special forces and Marines have been secretly training Taiwanese forces for at least a year.
“A US special operations unit and a contingent of Marines have been secretly operating in Taiwan to train military forces there,” The Wall Street Journal reported last week, citing unnamed US officials, adding the deployment is “part of efforts to shore up the island’s defenses as concern regarding potential Chinese aggression mounts.”
The visiting Taiwanese military officials are also expected to meet with Charles Flynn, commanding general of US Army Pacific, and John Christopher Aquilino, commander of US Indo-Pacific Command.