Washington, June 29: In what could spark a fresh controversy between the US and China, the former's State Department has reportedly sought deployment of US Marines to Taiwan to protect Washington's de facto embassy, two US officials have said, according to an exclusive report by CNN. China has consequently asked the US to "exercise caution," the news network added.
According to the exclusive report by the CNN, one US official said while the request for a Marine security guard had been received many weeks ago, it was yet to be formally approved and the State Department's Diplomatic Security Service and the Marines were still working on its deployment.
If everything goes off, it will be the first time in nearly four decades that the US Marines will take guard of a diplomatic post in Taiwan, the CNN report added.
The State Department, however, refused to divulge details, telling CNN its reluctance to "discuss specific security matters concerning the protection of our facility or personnel."
China was alerted by the US's move as the spokesperson of its foreign ministry, Lu Kang, said the US should exercise caution and "strictly abide by its 'one China' pledge" and avoid having any "official exchanges or military contact" with Taiwan to serve the political preconditions for relations with China.
US move comes after Xi refuses to cede an inch of territory
The confirmation about the official request for the Marines came just days after US Secretary of Defence James Mattis concluded his visit to Beijing. Mattis met top Chinese leaders - both civilian and military - besides President Xi Jinping who reportedly told Mattis that China could not afford to cede even an inch of its territory that has been left behind by its ancestors.
The US does not formally recognise Taiwan as an independent country under its 'One China policy' and hence doesn't have an official embassy in the island off mainland China's south-eastern coast.
Washington, however, has a de facto embassy in Taiwan in the form of the American Institute which was established as part of the Taiwan Relations Act of 1979 which governs Taiwan's relation with the US.
Controversy took place in Dec 2016 over Trump's talks with Taiwan president
On December 2, 2016, the then US president-elect Donald Trump had fuelled a diplomatic row with China by speaking to Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen over the telephone - thought to be the first between a Taiwanese leader and an American president-elect since the disruption in the ties between Taipei and Washington in the late 1970s, after the US's relation with China improved.
The phone call between Trump and Tsai, the first woman president of Taiwan who was also elected the same year, was more about a courtesy call with both leaders congratulating each other's electoral victory.
A statement also claimed that the two leaders had noted about "close economic, political and security ties" between Taipei and Washington.