In face of China threat, Taiwan to invite U.S. experts to bolster defenses

TAIPEI (Reuters) - Taiwan invites U.S. military experts to visit to provide advice on bolstering the island’s defenses, the defense ministry said on Monday, in the face of what Taipei views as a growing threat from its giant neighbor China.

Democratic Taiwan is claimed by China as part of its territory.

China has never renounced the use of force to bring the island under its control, and has stepped up military activity around the island, including sailing an aircraft carrier group through the Taiwan Strait last month.

Like most countries, the United States has no formal diplomatic ties with Taiwan, but is bound by law to provide the island with the means to defend itself and is its most important arms supplier.

In a brief statement, Taiwan’s Defense Ministry said it plans to use the “arms purchase contract model to invite a U.S. expert group to come to Taiwan”.

The ministry “hopes to use the U.S. military’s practical experience to provide a reference for the national armed forces’ construction and war preparations”.

“This case is a Taiwan-U.S. military exchange and cooperation plan, which will help consolidate and deepen the security partnership between the two sides and further ensure peace and stability in the region,” it said.

The ministry gave no other details, and did not specifically mention China, though the country is Taiwan’s only real military threat.

The Trump administration has been stepping up its support for Taiwan, including approving $10 billion in arms sales this year, despite strong Chinese opposition.

China, already locked in a trade war with the United States, regularly calls Taiwan the most sensitive and important issue in the Sino-U.S. relationship.

Brent Christensen, the de facto U.S. ambassador to Taiwan, said last month that strengthening security ties was one of his priorities.

While Taiwan’s military is well armed and well trained, China’s armed forces have long since gained the upper hand, with new missiles, stealth fighters, aircraft carriers and submarines coming into service at a steady rate.

Most military experts believe Taiwan would only last a few days in a war with China, unless the United States came quickly to its aid, mobilizing its substantial forces in nearby Japan and maybe also South Korea.

Reporting by Ben Blanchard, editing by Ed Osmond

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