Taiwan to stage military exercises simulating invasion amid tensions with mainland China

Drills come after Beijing holds a series of naval exercises close to the island

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 24 April, 2018, 3:22pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 24 April, 2018, 4:39pm

Taiwan will simulate repelling an invading force, emergency repairs of a major airbase and using civilian-operated drones as part of military exercises starting next week, the defence ministry said on Tuesday amid growing tensions with mainland China.

Beijing has ramped up military drills around self-ruled and democratic Taiwan, including flying bombers and other military aircraft around the island, since the island’s president, Tsai Ing-wen, of the pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party, took office in 2016.

Beijing sees the island as a breakaway Chinese province to be brought back into the fold and has not ruled out reunification by force. 

Taiwan’s annual Han Kuang drills, which start next week with a computer-aided command post exercise, do not make explicit mention of the mainland, instead referring to “offensive forces invading Taiwan”.

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The major part will be a live-fire field training exercise from June 4 to June 8, including “enemy elimination on beaches”, the ministry said.

“Civilian resources will also be integrated into this exercise to support military operations,” it added.

Tech companies would offer support with drones to mark targets and provide battlefield surveillance, the ministry said. Building companies will also help with emergency runway repairs for the Ching Chuan Kang airbase in central Taiwan.

The Air Combat Command would issue air raid alerts with an “aerial threat warning system” during the air defence drills, and the coastguard would join in exercises with the navy, it added.

Taiwan is equipped with mostly US-made weaponry, but has been pushing for Washington to sell it more advanced equipment, including new fighter jets, to help it better deter its giant neighbour.

Military experts say the balance of power between Taiwan and mainland China has now shifted decisively in Beijing’s favour and the mainland would probably overwhelm the island unless US forces came quickly to Taiwan’s aid.

The United States is bound by law to provide Taiwan with the means to defend itself, but it is unclear whether Washington would want to be dragged into what would probably be a hugely destructive war with mainland China over the island. 

Meanwhile, mainland China’s Liaoning aircraft carrier had led a flotilla of naval vessels in a “live combat drill” in the East China Sea, state media reported on Tuesday.

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The state-run news agency Xinhua said the vessels “took part in anti-aircraft and anti-submarine warfare training” with a simulated opposing force.

Xinhua said the drill, which took place on Sunday, included multiple take-offs from the deck of the aircraft carrier by J-15 fighter jets and that anti-air missiles were fired from ships surrounding the vessel.

The manoeuvre occurred in the East China Sea, although the report did not give an exact location. 

The sea is home to uninhabited islets at the centre of a festering row between Tokyo and Beijing. The Japanese government has long complained about China’s routine dispatch of coastguard ships to waters surrounding the islands.

Additional reporting by Agence France-Presse