The United States has dispatched some 200 military advisers to bases aroundTaiwanto assist with ongoing reforms to the island's armed forces, Taiwan's semi-official Central News Agency said on Monday.

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The instructors were assigned to support training at boot camps and reserve units, CNA said, ahead of a planned extension of Taiwan's mandatory military service from four to 12 months beginning in 2024. PresidentTsai Ing-wenannounced the policy change late last year as Taipei took meaningful steps to gird itself for Beijing's military ambitions in the coming decade.

Chinaclaims Taiwan as part of its territory, although its Communist Party leaders are yet to rule the island in their seven decades in power. Since Washington switched formal diplomatic recognition from Taipei to Beijing in 1979, China has opposed ongoing U.S.-Taiwan defense ties and reacts strongly to any political support for the island that might undermine Beijing's position.

Tsai, whose second term in office ends next May, acknowledged the presence ofU.S. militaryadvisers in Taiwanfor the first timein October 2021, but said their numbers weren't "as many as people thought." Chiu Kuo-cheng, her defense minister, said shortly after that U.S.-Taiwan military exchanges didn't mean American troops were now "stationed in Taiwan."

Taiwan's army soldiers account for more than half of the island's active service members. The service branch on Tuesday declined to comment on the CNA report, but said "exchanges with foreign militaries are conducted in accordance with planning."

Sun Li-fang, Taiwan's Defense Ministry spokesperson, told a media briefing the same day that it "welcomes allied military training to enhance the nation's armed forces," without elaborating.

In separate reports in February,The Wall Street Journaland Reuters said theU.S. Department of Defensewas planning to send between 100 and 200 troops to Taiwan in the coming months, the largest such deployment in nearly half a century.

The Taiwanese military comprises a mainly volunteer force of 188,000 troops, including 10 percent of conscripts at any one time and excluding 2.3 million reservists on paper. Theplanned conscription reformcould add an estimated 70,000 service members starting in 2027, but the island's defenders would still be dwarfed by China's 2 million-strong standing army.

President Tsai Ing-wen of Taiwan, center, poses for photographs with combat engineers during a visit in Taiwan’s southwestern Chiayi county on March 25, 2023. SAM YEH/AFP via Getty Images

President Tsai Ing-wen of Taiwan, center, poses for photographs with combat engineers during a visit in Taiwan’s southwestern Chiayi county on March 25, 2023. SAM YEH/AFP via Getty Images©SAM YEH/AFP via Getty Images

Taiwan isn't a U.S. treaty ally, although most Americans are supportive ofsome degree of military assistancein event of a Chinese invasion across the Taiwan Strait. For more than 40 years, Taipei has counted Washington as its main supplier of weapons and training under the Taiwan Relations Act of 1979.

Under the auspices of the TRA, a battalion of around 500 soldiers was expected to travel to the U.S. for training this year, CNA said in February. Last month, U.S. Defense SecretaryLloyd Austinsaid Taiwanese troops were also receiving instruction from unnamed units of the U.S. National Guard.

The U.S. had at least 27 active service members in Taiwan as of late December, the Pentagon's Defense Manpower Data Center said in a quarterly report in March. The number has remained fairly consistent in recent years, with the group mostly attached to the American Institute in Taiwan, the de facto U.S. embassy in Taipei.

The statistics typically don't include classified personnel data or temporary and emergency deployments.

"Consistent with the Taiwan Relations Act, the United States makes available to Taiwan defense articles and services necessary to enable it to maintain a sufficient self-defense capability," Lt. Col. Martin Meiners, a Pentagon spokesperson, toldNewsweekin a written statement.

"We don't have a comment on specific operations, engagements, or training, but I would highlight that our support for, and defense relationship with, Taiwan remains aligned against the current threat posed by the People's Republic of China," Meiners said.

Taiwan's defense reforms—seen as long overdue—have been accelerated by Russia's yearlong invasion of Ukraine. For the Taiwanese public, the ongoing conflict has made clear the possibility ofa cross-strait war.

U.S. officials including Austin don't see an invasion as imminent, but have warned that an accidental spark is possible in the coming years as China ramps up its air force and navy maneuversaround the island.

More training for Taiwan's armed forces is viewed as one necessary element in a concerted U.S.-led effort to help Taipei bolster deterrence and change Beijing's long-term calculus. It's happening alongside arms sales, international pressure on China from the West, and Taiwan's own desireto better prepare.

Texas Republican Rep. Michael McCaul, who chairs the House Foreign Affairs Committee, pledged the legislative branch's continued support for Taiwan during a delegationvisit to Taipeiearlier this month.

"I sign off on all foreign military sales, including weapons to Taiwan. And I promise you, madam president, we will deliver those weapons," he told Tsai.

"We are doing everything we can inCongressto speed up these sales and get you the weapons that you need to defend yourself. And we will provide training to your military, not for war, but for peace," McCaul said.

Uncle Sam is already in Taiwan 🤣