TAIPEI (REUTERS) - The United States is planning on "cooperation" between its National Guard and Taiwan's military, Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen said on Tuesday (May 31), deepening security ties in the face of what Taipei's government complains is a rising threat from China.
The United States is Taiwan's most important international supporter and arms supplier, despite the lack of formal diplomatic ties.
Beijing regards Taipei as a renegade province, to be reunified by force, if necessary. Taiwan has complained for the past two years or so of repeated missions by China's air force near the island, often in the south-western part of its air defence identification zone, or Adiz, close to the Taiwan-controlled Pratas Islands.
China's military said last week it had recently conducted an exercise around Taiwan as a "solemn warning" against its" collusion" with the United States.
That came after US President Joe Biden angered China by appearing to signal a change in a US policy of "strategic ambiguity" on Taiwan by saying the United States would get involved militarily if China were to attack the island.
US officials said there had been no change in policy.
Meeting visiting US Senator Tammy Duckworth at her office in Taipei, Ms Tsai noted that Ms Duckworth was one of the main sponsors of the Taiwan Partnership Act, which had received bipartisan support in the US Congress though has yet to become law.
"As a result, the US Department of Defence is now proactively planning cooperation between the US National Guard and Taiwan's defence forces," Ms Tsai said, without giving details.
Taiwanese media has previously reported that Taiwan could partner with Hawaii's National Guard for the programme.
"We look forward to closer and deeper Taiwan-US cooperation on matters of regional security," Ms Tsai added.
Ms Duckworth said she was visiting to reiterate that her country stands with Taiwan, and that there was "tremendous" support for the island from US lawmakers.
Still, last week Taiwan was not included in the United States' Indo-Pacific Economic Framework for Prosperity, or Ipef, despite its lobbying efforts.
Ms Tsai said Taiwan will keep expressing its willingness to participate.
"In the near future, we look forward to Taiwan and the United States working together in taking new steps to develop concrete plans that further deepen our economic partnership."