U.S. and Taiwan navies quietly held Pacific drills in April, sources say

FILE PHOTO: Members of Taiwan's Navy and media onboard a special operation boat navigate near a Kuang Hua VI-class missile boat, during a drill part of a demonstration for the media, to show combat readiness ahead of the Lunar New Year holidays, on the waters near a military base in Kaohsiung, Taiwan January 31, 2024. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins/File Photo

TAIPEI (Reuters) -The U.S. and Taiwan navies conducted joint drills in the Pacific in April that, officially, did not take place, four people briefed on the matter said, as the two militaries boost cooperation amid rising Chinese military threats.

Washington and Taipei have been expanding their military cooperation in recent years amid almost daily Chinese incursions into Taiwan’s air defence identification zone and drills by Chinese forces near the island.


U.S.-Taiwan military engagement, including visits and training, are kept low-key and are often not officially confirmed because of China’s objection to any military contacts between Washington and Taipei.

The drills, which were not publicised, took place last month in the Western Pacific, according to the sources, who requested anonymity given the sensitivity of the matter.

One source said “multiple military assets” were involved. A second source said the drills did not officially exist and were dubbed “unplanned sea encounters”, pointing to a tacit agreement in which both sides claim the exercises were simply the result of coincidental encounters.

That source also said about half a dozen navy ships from both sides, including frigates and supply and support vessels, participated in the days-long exercises, which were designed to practice “basic” operations such as communications, refuelling and resupply.

Taiwan’s navy said in a statement to Reuters that to handle unexpected scenarios at sea and to minimise “interference” with each another, the navy “acts in concert with the U.S.-promoted Code for Unplanned Encounters at Sea”, also known as CUES.

This month, Taiwan’s Chief of the General Staff Admiral Mei Chia-shu attended the change-of-command ceremony for U.S. Indo-Pacific Command in Hawaii, which only came to light after he was spotted in the audience in an official picture.

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