(CNSNews.com) – A Chinese Communist Party organ has reacted sharply to unconfirmed reports that U.S. Marines may be stationed at Washington’s de facto diplomatic mission in Taiwan, charging that any such move would amount to “invasion” of Chinese territory.

Taiwanese media outlets reported at the weekend that a small contingent of Marines will be posted at the newly-dedicated American Institute in Taiwan compound, which is due to begin operating formally in the fall.

The U.S. switched recognition to the communist government in Beijing in 1979. In the absence of normal ties the AIT fulfils the functions of an embassy in Taipei, while the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office is the equivalent facility in the U.S.

Citing “sources familiar with the matter,” the Taipei Times said the stationing of Marines at the AIT “could be considered a representation of how much the U.S. values its relationship with Taiwan.”

Taiwan’s presidential office declined to comment, calling AIT’s security arrangements an internal affair.

U.S. Marine Security Guards have been based at U.S. diplomatic missions around the world since the end of World War II.

There has been no official confirmation that Marines will indeed be stationed at the new $250 million AIT compound which replaces premises – formerly the headquarters of the U.S. Military Assistance Advisory Group – that have housed the AIT since the diplomatic relationship changed in 1979.

Taiwan’s Central News Agency quoted an AIT official as saying, “As is the practice at our current location, a small number of American personnel detailed to AIT along with a larger number of locally-hired employees will provide security for the new office building in cooperation with the local authorities.”

The official did not elaborate on the “American personnel.” Queries sent to the AIT brought no response by press time.

Despite the uncertainty, the report raised hackles in Beijing, where the government regards Taiwan as a rebellious province and expects the international community to fall in line with its stance on the matter.

“Only U.S. embassies and consulates are guarded by Marines,” the Communist Party newspaper Global Times said in an editorial. “Posting U.S. Marines to the AIT would mean a public U.S. declaration that the AIT is equivalent to a U.S. embassy or consulate instead of a non-governmental institution.”

The paper warned that should uniformed Marines be based at the AIT, Beijing would view the move “as a severe subversion of the one-China policy or even an invasion of the U.S. military of Chinese soil.”

The AIT, it said, would be seen as “a primary stronghold for the U.S. invasion of China.”

The paper said that “pro-independence activists” in Taiwan are hopeful that Marines will be deployed, in order to strengthen their argument that the AIT is no different from other U.S. diplomatic missions.

Taiwan’s “separatists” had suffered a number of setbacks recently due to Beijing’s actions – or as Global Times described them, “multiple strikes from the Chinese mainland” – and so were looking for a morale boost, it said.

The editorial said that if Marines are stationed at the AIT, the U.S. would be faced with Chinese “countermeasures.” It did not elaborate, but did say that the facility “would become the most insecure place in Taiwan and a blasting fuse for clashes.”

Taiwan, a flourishing democracy of 23 million people, has weathered a Chinese campaign to deny it international recognition for decades. Wielding its diplomatic and economic clout, Beijing has put pressure on governments, businesses and international organizations to comply.

Only a small group of countries, currently down to 18, retain diplomatic relations with Taiwan, and they are in turn denied recognition by Beijing.

Recent Chinese measures aimed at restricting Taiwan’s diplomatic space included demands that U.S. and other airlines amend online customer information that portrays Taiwan as a separate country. The carriers complied.

Chinese pressure also led to the recent decision by the East Asian Olympic Committee to reported last week.

Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-Wen, a member of the pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party, told a visiting politician on Monday that her country would “never back down under pressure” from China, but would “continue to play a constructive role in maintaining regional peace and stability and work with like-minded countries and international organizations to defend shared values.”

Taiwan enjoys strong support in the U.S. Congress. In the same year the Carter administration cut diplomatic ties with Taiwan in favor of the mainland government in Beijing, Congress passed the Taiwan Relations Act, which commits the U.S. to protect the island from unprovoked aggression and to provide it with military assistance.

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