A new exclusive report shows that, for “at least a year,” American service members have been deployed in Taiwan to train local forces in case China turns its military threats into action.

According to The Wall Street Journal and U.S. officials it spoke with, “About two dozen members of U.S. special-operations and support troops are conducting training for small units of Taiwan’s ground forces” and “U.S. Marines are working with local maritime forces on small-boat training.”

The covert training becomes more important in light of China’s recent escalation of military sorties penetrating Taiwan’s Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) that have increased to record-setting frequency in recent days raising concerns that China may attempt to do to Taiwan what it did to Hong Kong.

As The WSJ points out, “The Chinese flights, while not entering the area Taiwan defines as its airspace, have been a reminder of the Communist Party’s view of Taiwan as a part of China. Beijing has vowed to take control of the island by force if necessary.” Part of the concerns, according to WSJ, come after “top U.S. military officials testified earlier this year that Beijing is likely to try to use force in its designs on Taiwan within the next six years” while “other officials have said China’s timeline could be sooner than that.”

If the timeline predictions of U.S. officials regarding China’s intent to take over Taiwan are anything like their projections for the Afghan government’s ability to resist a Taliban takeover, the American-trained Taiwanese forces may be tested sooner rather than later.

Taiwan, in addition to the partnership with American troops, continues to prepare for war as Chinese Communist Party state TV claims Taiwan’s government is “an evil force the mainland must crush.” Taiwan’s foreign minister, Joseph Wu, told Australian television recently that “if China is going to launch a war against Taiwan, we will fight to the end and that is our commitment.”

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