Taiwan would stage 62 military drills and mobilisation exercises this year to strengthen its defensive capabilities in the face of a growing military threat from the mainland, the island's defence ministry said yesterday.
The exercises, including war games, troop and civilian mobilisations and electronic simulations, will start next month.
Officials said the island had no intention of engaging in an arms race with the mainland but said the military needed to stage exercises to ensure it was prepared for any potential attacks from the mainland.
"In the face of an ever increasing military threat from the Chinese communists, the military is making detailed plans and fully preparing to consolidate various types of combat readiness and training within the armed forces," defence ministry spokesman Luo Shou-he said.
Although cross-strait relations have improved steadily since Ma Ying-jeou of the mainland-friendly Kuomintang became president in 2008, Beijing still has more than 1,000 missiles targeting the island to deter any move towards declaring independence.
Beijing's official military budget last year was about US$106 billion (HK$824 billion), the second largest in the world and up about 11 per cent from 2011.
But military experts from other countries estimate the real figure was up to three times that amount.
Major General Lee Chao-ming, director of Taiwan's military training division, said the most important drill would be the annual Han Kuang exercises, to be held in two stages, with live military drills scheduled for April and computer-aided war games set for July.
Lee did not say how many servicemen would be involved in those drills but last year more than 200,000 took part in five days of exercises to practice hi-tech military tactics based on conflict between asymmetrical forces.
He also said the army would stage three artillery exercises this year, while each of the three forces would hold live-fire missile drills. There would also be joint combat drills on outlying islands including Quemoy, Matsu, Penghu, Tungying and Wuchiu - known as the front-line islets because of to their proximity to the mainland.
On growing tensions between the mainland and Japan over rival claims to the Diaoyu Islands in the East China Sea, called the Senkakus by Japan, Luo said the island's military had paid special attention to developments. Taiwan also claims the islands.
"In addition to closely monitoring what has happened there, we have also gathered all relevant intelligence in order to prepare and make any contingency plans in line with government policy and the guidance of the National Security Council," Luo said.
Meanwhile, in a meeting with members of a visiting US Senate delegation, Ma stressed Taiwan's claim to sovereignty over the Diaoyus, saying the disputed island group was traditionally a territory of Taiwan.
But he called for dialogue among the claimants and peaceful development of the island group, believed to be surrounded by rich oil and fish resources.
Ma also called on the US to sell advanced F-16 C/D fighter jets to Taiwan.