As a sign of enhanced defense cooperation between Taiwan and the United States, the self-ruled island country will dispatch about 114 soldiers to the US next year for training on M1A2T Abrams tanks and high-mobility artillery rocket systems or HIMARS.
Taiwan will receive the 38 M1A2T Abrams tanks and 11 HIMARS systems in 2024. Beginning in January, the Taiwanese military intends to send troops to the United States for training on equipment operation and maintenance when the systems are finally delivered, Taiwan News reported
The troops trained in the US will be in charge of training operations and act as instructors for the two systems, which are believed to significantly bolster Taiwan’s combat capability in the face of the China threat.
Taiwan’s purchase and deployment of these cutting-edge systems is part of its massive military modernization drive to build capability against a potential Chinese invasion.
China, on its part, has made no bones it wants to unite Taiwan, which it considers a renegade province, back with the Chinese mainland. It has not ruled out using military force to achieve the so-called reunification. It has been practicing an amphibious invasion, as evidenced by several drills conducted in the last year.
As stated in the “2024 Ministry of National Defense Budget,” Taiwan will begin receiving the 108 M1A2T tanks the United States committed to supplying in 2019. Taiwan will receive 38 M1A2T tanks next year, 42 more in 2025, and 28 more in 2026.
The United States additionally authorized the transfer of 11 HIMARS systems to Taiwan in 2020 and later consented to Taiwan’s acquisition of an extra 18 units. It is anticipated that the first 11 HIMARS systems will be delivered in the coming year and that shipments will continue until 2025. The remaining eighteen HIMARS units are expected in 2026.
In May, the Ministry of National Defense (MND) announced that Taiwan would receive its High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS) M142 launchers from the United States one year earlier than anticipated.
The military intends to deploy 84 officers and enlistees to the United States in January to participate in M1A2T tank training under the defense budget for the upcoming year. The training is anticipated to be finished by the end of next year.
Moreover, following February of next year, thirty officers and enlistees will be sent to the United States for training on the HIMARS multiple rocket launcher system. The training is scheduled to end in October of that year.
After training and returning home, the troops will become trainers for these two weapon systems. They will be in charge of creating lesson plans and guidelines and leading training and instructional sessions.
Notably, the announcement of Taiwan sending troops to the US comes amid observations that the US and China could be steadily progressing towards a period of thaw in ties, especially after the meeting between US President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping, with the latter giving assurances that his country will not attack Taiwan.
US Turning Taiwan Into A Powder Keg
Due to China’s increased military presence in the Taiwan Strait and worries that it may invade Taiwan by 2027, the island nation has gone on a military-building frenzy to bolster its defenses against the Chinese invasion.
China, on its part, fiercely opposes the delivery of arms from Washington to Taipei by referring to it as contradictory to the long-standing ‘One China’ policy. Despite the absence of official diplomatic ties, the US legally must arm Taiwan to enable the self-ruled island state to defend itself. However, China regularly criticizes such arms purchases.
The Pentagon and White House are under pressure from US senators to accelerate the delivery of arms to Taiwan. The goals are two-fold: to aid Taiwan in fending off China and to deter China from considering attacking in the first place by providing Taipei with enough weapons to make an invasion ‘very costly.’
China’s Defense Ministry stated on November 30 that American meddling in Taiwan and the South China Sea ought to end, warning that US arms sales to Taiwan have made the situation more precarious. According to Senior Col. Wu Qian, the chief spokesman for the defense ministry, Taiwan’s ruling Democratic Progressive Party is “turning Taiwan into a weapons depot and a powder keg.”
The remarks come less than two months before Taiwanese voters are slated to choose between the ruling party, which supports tighter defense and close relations with the United States, and opposition parties, which contend that forging closer ties with China is the best way to ease tensions.
At a monthly news conference, Wu stated, “Taiwan’s security depends on the peaceful development of cross-strait relations instead of a few pieces of U.S.-made weapons.” The Taiwan Strait, spanning 160 kilometers (100 miles) in width, connects the east coast of China and Taiwan.
However, Taiwan’s president, Tsai Ing-wen, said that although Beijing is attempting to influence the country’s next election, Beijing is unlikely to consider a significant invasion of Taiwan due to domestic issues.
Responding to questions about the risks of an invasion at the 2023 DealBook Summit in New York, Tsai said, “I think the Chinese leadership at this juncture is overwhelmed by its internal challenges.” She added, “My thought is that perhaps this is not a time for them to consider a major invasion of Taiwan.”
The leaders’ discussions, held outside the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit, aimed to keep the tensions from rising to the point of war.