As part of a new Pentagon proposal to beef up Taiwan’s defenses against China, the state of Hawaii could “adopt” Taiwan and help train the island’s forces via its National Guard under the Defense Department’s State Partnership Program (SPP). Under the SPP, individual states or territories adopt foreign nations and conduct various joint exercises with their defense forces.
Taiwan’s United Daily News (UDN) said on Sunday that Hawaii — home to U.S. Indo-Pacific Command (INDOPACOM) — is at the top of the list, but other states are being considered such as Washington, California, Oregon, Alaska and Minnesota.
However, Taiwan – a fully democratic and independent state claimed by Beijing as a renegade province – already has defense liaisons stationed in Honolulu, and there is regular contact between Taipei and INDOPACOM, another reason Hawaii tops the list.
The SPPs originated in early post-Cold War Eastern Europe, where the initiative still helps train the defense forces of former Soviet bloc partner nations.
One of the earliest, Illinois’ partnership with Poland, goes back to 1993.
Newsweek notes that in the Indo-Pacific, “the U.S. maintains 10 SPP relationships, including Indonesia’s with Hawaii; the Philippines’ with Guam and Hawaii; Thailand and Malaysia’s with Washington; Mongolia’s with Alaska; and Vietnam’s with Oregon.”
This potential training partnership between Taiwan and the National Guard was included in the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for 2022, the $768 billion defense budget package finally approved by Biden after Christmas. The NDAA requires Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin to report to Congress on the “feasibility and advisability” of any such program by February 15.
Newsweek reports that:
A key element of the partnership would be the National Guard’s training of the island’s reserve forces, which have come under the administration of Taiwan’s newly established All-Out Defense Mobilization Agency since January 1. The agency also is responsible for civilian mobilization during wartime and advancing public awareness in peacetime.
Referring to the UDN story, Newsweek adds that:
Hawaii’s existing SPP relationships with Indonesia and the Philippines as well as the potential “high-profile” nature of a future partnership with Taiwan are among the reasons why other states are being considered…
Newsweek explains that:
…possible areas of cooperation are disaster and emergency response; cyber defense and communications security; military medical cooperation; Mandarin-language education and cultural exchange; and programs for National Guard advisers to assist in the training of Taiwan’s reserves.
On December 29, Taiwanese Defense Minister Chiu Kuo-cheng confirmed that talks were underway, although he could not disclosed specifics. He said Taiwan would be “happy to cooperate.” ADN