Taiwan has kicked off the first stage of its annual military exercises, drawing on lessons from the war in Ukraine as part of its asymmetric warfare strategy to repel a simulated attack from the Chinese mainland. The five-day table-top drill, which began on Monday, was held in the format of map exercises instead of computerised war games as the island’s military previously did. It began at a sensitive time after the Chinese aircraft carrier Liaoning led a larger than usual strike group in what the People’s Liberation Army described as “realistic combat training” in the western Pacific. “All designated personnel from various military regions are required to report to their command centres for the map drills,” a defence ministry official said on Monday, adding participating units included the military joint operations command centre, the air force, navy and army operation centres. Do PLA drills reveal China strategy to deny military help for Taiwan? The official, who declined to be named, said the map exercises would incorporate the lessons learned from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. According to Major General Lin Wen-huang, the map exercise will allow generals to meet face-to-face to discuss strategy, which is better than using computers. The annual Han Kuang exercises – Taiwan’s most important war games – will also test all-out defence readiness after the invasion of Ukraine highlighted the importance of incorporating regular armed forces, reservists and civilian forces in dealing with the enemy, Lin told a news conference in Taipei on April 27. The second part of the exercises, which involve live-fire drills based on the result of the simulation analyses will be staged on July 25, also for five days, according to Lin. Military officials said portable Javelin and Stinger missiles, which have played an important role in destroying Russian tanks during the Ukraine war were expected to be used, while military drones will also be employed to test the island’s asymmetric warfare operation. Taiwan has been on alert for a potential attack by the PLA since the Russian invasion of Ukraine. There have been concerns that the PLA might seize the opportunity to attack the island while the US is focused on Ukraine. Beijing regards Taiwan as a breakaway province and has never renounced the use of force to bring it under its control. The island is closely monitoring the PLA’s movements in or near the Taiwan Strait, including the Liaoning strike group, which sailed to the western Pacific earlier this month. According to Japan Self-Defence Forces’ Joint Staff Office, the strike group is continuing its training and was spotted some 300km (180 miles) southwest of Okinawa on Saturday morning. Meanwhile, Taiwan’s National Security Bureau said in a report to the legislature on Monday that Beijing had tried to seize theopportunity while the US was busy with the Ukraine war to increase its influence in the Indo-Pacific region by sending Foreign Minister Wang Yi to visit Pakistan, Afghanistan, India and Nepal and inviting the foreign ministers of Indonesia, Myanmar, Thailand and the Philippines to visit the mainland. But such an action was checked by US President Joe Biden, who not only invited leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations to a summit he hosted in Washington, but also plans to visit South Korean and Japan later this month for the Quad summit in Tokyo where he is expected to meet India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi to discuss ways to counter regional security threats posed by Russia, mainland China and North Korea. Satellite images ‘suggest China is practising strikes on Taiwan and Guam’ Against this backdrop, the report said competition between Beijing and Washington was set to get tougher. Chen Ming-tong, the director of the National Security Bureau, told reporters ahead of a legislature meeting on Monday that Beijing would step up its cognitive warfare against Taiwan by recruiting popular Taiwanese internet figures to badmouth the island and seek to create negative feelings towards the island’s government and its policies. “A recent claim about the Chinese Communists sending an aircraft to evacuate Taiwanese in Ukraine in the start of the Ukraine war was one of the examples of the Chinese Communists using internet icons to promote their united front ploys,” Chen said, adding their goal was to win over Taiwanese public to boost cross-strait unification.