In a move certain to antagonize the Chinese Communist Party, Taiwan’s Defense Ministry announced Wednesday that some of its military officers were sent to a NATO war college in Italy.
The cooperation between the island democracy and the Western alliance will undoubtedly displease Beijing, though Taiwan insisted that the move was purely academic.
Taiwanese Air Force officer Lt. Col. Wu Bong-yeng told the media that he attended the NATO Defense College in Rome in 2021. Wu said the studies were part of an academic exchange and not military-related. He noted that his European counterparts were “very curious about Taiwan.”
BREAKING: China just launched a massive sea and air combat exercise around Taiwan island
They say their goal is to counter external forces colluding with ‘Taiwan secessionists’ pic.twitter.com/O3ZzH1xD4d
— Jack Posobiec 🇺🇸 (@JackPosobiec) January 8, 2023
Wu reported that he studied the same courses as officers attending from NATO member nations, and Taiwan confirmed that other officers have also studied in Rome.
The U.S. and Taiwan enjoy close relations, both diplomatically and militarily, but cooperation with NATO is hardly as common. But the Western alliance noted in last year’s new Strategic Concept release that China presents “systematic challenges.”
NATO began focusing on China in 2020 and declared that it would seek closer alliances with other Pacific nations. Recently, warships from NATO members such as Britain, France, and Germany have joined U.S. vessels in disputed waters around Taiwan.
China, of course, opposes any recognition of Taiwan as anything other than a part of “one China.” The increased Western activity around the island is now countered by the mainland also stepping up its military presence in nearby waters and airspace.
These increased Chinese activities, however, do not point toward a heightened possibility of an actual invasion by the mainland. At least that’s the position of U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin.
While acknowledging “increased aerial activity” and “surface vessel activity” around Taiwan, Austin told a press conference Wednesday that this does not signify an invasion of the island “is imminent.” He added, “I seriously doubt that.”
Those preparing for the possibility of war must be aware of “flashpoints,” and for conflict with China, that area is undoubtedly Taiwan. Closer cooperation with NATO is a plus for the democracy as it positions itself to better defend against aggressions from its powerful communist neighbor.