In another saber-rattling offensive, China has demanded that the US cut off military ties with Taiwan following reports that Marines have been helping the island strengthen its defenses against a potential Chinese invasion.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian warned that "China will take all necessary measures to protect its sovereignty and territorial integrity" when he was asked Friday about the reports, the Washington Post reported.
Zhao added that the US should recognize the "high sensitivity" of the issue and end military contact with Taiwan, which the Chinese Communist Party claims as part of its sovereign territory. Mainland officials have threatened to take control of the island by force if Taiwan's government declares official independence.
Amid intensifying Chinese aggression, the Wall Street Journal reported Thursday that a Special Operations unit and a contingent of Marines have been stationed in Taiwan for more than a year to train the island's military forces.
Officials said that about two dozen members of the US special operations and support personnel are training small numbers of Taiwan's ground forces and the Marines are working with local maritime forces on small-boat training.
The reported presence of American troops is symbolic of US efforts to support Taiwan against the CCP's impending forced unification.
As the US fortifies the island's military defense apparatus, the clandestine operation deepens America's military ties with Taiwan, which has claimed de facto independence through sovereign self-rule in the face of the communist regime.
Taiwan broke away from China in 1949, but the Chinese totalitarian government considers the island a "renegade state." A formal declaration of Taiwanese independence could trigger the mainland's full-scale military takeover.
Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen did not acknowledge the matter in a speech Friday at the Yushan military forum in Taipei but noted that developments in the Indo-Pacific were creating new tensions that "could have a devastating effect on international security and the global economy if they are not handled carefully."
Backlash on Chinese social media was muted Friday, suggesting that discussion was censored online. The relative silence about Taiwan on Weibo, China's Twitter-style service, juxtaposed a whirlwind of nationalist commentators remarking on news of damage to a US nuclear-powered Navy submarine that collided with an object in the South China Sea, the Washington Post reported.
Social media users who were able to post about the Taiwan training program prompted Beijing to retaliate, asking why China "was not striking back" or calling for the island to be "liberated" by the People's Liberation Army—the armed forces of the People's Republic of China (PRC) and the armed wing of the PRC's founding and ruling political party, the Chinese Communist Party.
The Chinese state-affiliated Global Times editor-in-chief Hu Xijin jeered at Washington for only sending 24 soldiers without fanfare, instead of publicly establishing a base. "Roll the dice," the head of the nationalist tabloid taunted. "See whose willpower is ultimately stronger when it comes to the Taiwan issue."
The Chinese state-controlled magazine Naval and Merchant Ships published an article in July detailing a three-stage plan to invade Taiwan, involving ballistic missiles, fighter jet attacks, and amphibious landings on Taiwan's beaches.