Taiwan’s president confirmed the presence of a small number of U.S. troops to help train the island’s military, provoking a strong reaction from China.

Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen confirmed for the first time Thursday that the United States has a military presence on the island “to train Taiwanese troops,” something China described as a “provocation” and a “threat to peace” by Washington.

In an interview with the U.S. network CNN, which was echoed by Taiwanese media, Tsai answered “yes” to the question: “Does U.S. support include military to train Taiwanese troops?

She added that there is a “wide range of cooperation” with the U.S. to “increase the defense capability” of Taiwan, but avoided specifying the exact number of U.S. troops in the country, limiting herself to saying that there are “less than what is believed”.

Taiwan’s Minister of Defense, Chiu Kuo-cheng, tried to qualify the president’s words by assuring that Tsai “did not say that there was a US military detachment on the island”, defining the presence of US troops as “exchange personnel”.

Be that as it may, Beijing, through Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin, declared that pro-independence actions on the island “cannot change the irrefutable fact that Taiwan is part of China”.

He also warned the authorities of the island – which has been governed autonomously since 1949, but whose sovereignty is claimed by Beijing – that “the quest for independence is a dead end”, while urging Washington to act “under the one China principle”, whereby the existence of the Republic of China (Taiwan) is denied in favor of the People’s Republic of China.

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