In the aftermath of the Chinese Civil War, the communists consolidated control of the mainland while the nationalists regrouped in the isle of Taiwan. The communist party of China (CCP) would make a goal to reunify the Republic of China (ROC), which rules Taiwan, even by force, if necessary.

The United States is a valuable actor in both diplomacy and deterrence in keeping another major war from occurring, as China’s aggression is not only limited to Taiwan but also Japan, Vietnam, and the Philippines.

To prepare for a potential invasion of Taiwan, America mustered the most extensive and powerful fleet, deployed to the Indo-Pacific. Part of the components of America’s Asian Pacific forces, the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), will be the first line of defense and contingency if such an invasion of Taiwan occurs.

Presence of US Forces in the Region

In the Asian Pacific, the United States maintains its most significant force of readiness. Currently, the US military has over 80,000 troops deployed to the region (53,713 in Japan and 26,414 in South Korea) located in Northeast Asia. The significant presence of US forces directly counter threats from the People’s Republic of China and North Korea. Through longstanding mutual defense pacts with Tokyo and Seoul, Washington currently has central base access, and the two former are under the nuclear umbrella.

Compared to Japan and South Korea, Taiwan does not have the luxury of direct benefits of American forces as the Henry Kissinger-backed geopolitical shift ended the presence of US troops in Taiwan with closer ties with the PRC. Due to this, American forces will now have to respond to any threats to Taipei directly from quick-reaction forces from Japan.

Sgt Maj. Jim Lanham, sergeant major of the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, speaks to Marines during an all-hands formation aboard the USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6) while underway in the Pacific Ocean, July 26, 2017, via DVIDS

The 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit and Components

The 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, the 31st MEU, is the only continuously forward deployed crisis response force. Activated on March 1st, 1967, the MEU saw its first combat operations during the Vietnam War.

The MEU consists of a command element, a battalion landing team known as a BLT (infantry battalion with combined arms elements), an aviation combat element, and a logistics combat element (CLB). Along with the Marine elements, the US Seventh Fleet also reinforces the MEU.