WASHINGTON, Aug 17 (Reuters) – U.S. Republican Senator John Cornyn has deleted a tweet in which he said wrongly that the United States currently has 30,000 troops stationed in Chinese-claimed Taiwan, a claim that spurred Chinese media to call him a “dotard.”
Cornyn included the statistic late on Monday in a tweet about the numbers of U.S. troops based around the world “today,” including in Afghanistan before the final withdrawal of U.S. forces from that country, which is now under Taliban control.
The U.S. military did have forces in Taiwan before the United States formally established ties with communist China in 1979. Those troops were removed over time, including under diplomatic agreements.
The Global Times, a Chinese state-controlled tabloid, pounced on the Texas senator’s error as evidence of the irresponsibility of U.S politicians.
“The tweet saying U.S. is stationing ‘30,000 troops’ in China’s Taiwan island could be a jaw-dropping mistake or hype from a ‘dotard’ senator, but it is shocking enough to see how irresponsible American politicians are on crucial issue of Taiwan Straits,” the tabloid said on Twitter.
Cornyn’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The Global Times’ editor-in-chief Hu Xijin tweeted that Taiwan authorities must explain Cornyn’s remark and added if it is true, China must “immediately launch a war to eliminate and expel U.S. soldiers.”
Cornyn has been an outspoken proponent of boosting U.S. ties with Taiwan and has introduced legislation to establish a partnership between the U.S. National Guard and Taiwan’s defense forces.
Chinese officials consider the status of self-ruled Taiwan, to which nationalist troops fled after losing China’s civil war, one of its most bedrock policy issues, and has never renounced the use of force to bring the island under its control.
The United States is committed to ensuring Taiwan can defend itself under the Taiwan Relations Act.
(Reporting by Michael Martina Editing by Sonya Hepinstall)