U.S. Marine and an airman perform scout swimmer training during Marine Special Operations School’s Individual Training Course at Key West, Florida. Credit: US Marines photo.

They are, the elite of the elite, of the legendary Leathernecks.

The US Marine Raider Regiment.

These are guys, you don’t want to mess with, on any occasion — and yes, they are training in Taiwan.

According to the Taiwan News, US Marines Corps special operators from the Marine Raider Regiment recently began conducting drills on the island, Taiwan’s Naval Command confirmed.

While US forces have trained in Taiwan, this fact has generally not been publicized by either American or Taiwanese officials since 1979.

That year, the US government officially recognized the Communist regime in Beijing as the sole legitimate authority in China and formally severed diplomatic ties with the Nationalist government in Taipei.

At the same time, the US has reserved the right to continue supporting Taiwan and its military until there is a final settlement over its status vis-a-vis the mainland.  

A statement from Taiwan’s Naval Command described the drills as “routine Taiwan-US military exchange and cooperation training,” which it said were designed to enhance the combat capabilities of its own troops, The War Zone reported.

The Marine Raiders also reportedly undertook two weeks of coronavirus-related quarantine prior to beginning the exercise.

China’s state-run Global Times tabloid also confirmed the report, noting that “the US military’s presence in Taiwan used to be an open secret, and neither side actively gave publicity to related developments.”

Taiwan’s United Daily News had previously reported that the Marine Raiders will be supervising Taiwanese Marines in skills including assault boat and speedboat infiltration operations at the Tsoying Naval Base in Kaohsiung.

This would make sense considering the maritime skill sets of the Marine Raiders and the kinds of missions that Taiwan’s Marines, as well as its own maritime special operations forces, could be called upon to perform during a conflict with China.

As noted earlier, the US military is known to send troops from various branches, including other special operations units, to Taiwan for joint training, but it is rare for these engagements to be publicized in any way, The War Zone reported.

A U.S. Marine with the All-Domain Reconnaissance Detachment, 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit fast-ropes from a Navy MH-60S Sea Hawk assigned to Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 23 during training aboard the USS Makin Island Credit: US Marine Corps photo).

Prime examples include the iterations of Exercise Balance Tamper, a Joint Combined Exchange Training (JCET) event that sees US Army Special Forces working alongside Republic of China Army Aviation elements and Taiwan’s Special Forces. 

A rare video from the US Army’s 1st Special Forces Group that briefly appeared earlier this year showed Green Berets training on Taiwan during a recent Balance Tamper exercise, The War Zone reported.

The maneuvers apparently also involved a Republic of China Army special operations unit, the 101st Amphibious Reconnaissance Battalion, also known as the Sea Dragon Frogmen.

These latest maneuvers in Taiwan involving the Marine Raiders also come at a time in which the Republic of China Marine Corps is being strengthened in order to enhance the country’s amphibious warfare capabilities as tensions rise between Taipei and Beijing. 

Taiwan News reports that an additional US$28.8 million has been added to the island’s budget for its Marine Corps to fund new equipment including special operations raiding craft, thermal imagers and boarding equipment.

This all suggests that a particular focus is being placed on infiltration and interdiction missions, as well as reconnaissance.

In particular, in a conflict scenario, Taiwan is expected to deploy special operations teams to various islands in or near the Taiwan Strait from where they would be able to harass Chinese forces, or perhaps even launching raids on the mainland.