Taiwan’s military has begun five days of live-fire war games putting its defences to the test against a mainland invasion, as Beijing and Washington step up their sabre-rattling in the region.
Chief of the General Staff Huang Shu-kuang kicked off the annual drill – dubbed Han Kuang – on Monday, giving orders from the self-ruled island’s top command centre in Taipei.
According to a military source, the first day involved simulated People’s Liberation Army missile attacks targeting command centres, airports and military bases in Taiwan.
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“We are testing the preservation capabilities of our forces in such a scenario and how ready our reserve forces would be,” said the source, who requested anonymity because he was not authorised to speak to the media.
Beijing considers Taiwan to be a part of China that must be returned to the mainland fold – by force if necessary. It has repeatedly threatened to attack the island since Tsai Ing-wen, of the independence-leaning Democratic Progressive Party, was elected president in 2016 and refused to accept the one-China principle.
Taiwan’s massive underground Chiashan airbase in Hualien, strategically located on the island’s east coast, was a key part of the drill so far, the military source said. Mirage 2000 and F-16 fighter jets as well as P-3C anti-submarine warfare patrol aircraft were sent to the airbase, where they were examined and had their weapons unloaded. They will remain there until they are needed for combat, along with other key personnel and equipment sent to the airbase on C-130 transport planes.
Meanwhile, naval vessels and the island’s two submarines were sent to waters off Taiwan’s southwest coast to prepare for a counter-attack, while army surveillance and attack helicopters were also deployed, the source said.
The defence ministry said the war games would put the military’s coastal defences to the test.
“This year’s Han Kuang exercise will primarily focus on testing Taiwan’s defence strategies, which involve maintaining combat capabilities, pursuing decisive victory in coastal zones and subduing enemies in beach areas,” the ministry said.
This year’s exercise will see some of Taiwan’s 22 new combined arms battalions in action for the first time. Formed in September, they bring together soldiers from the infantry and cavalry units, liaison officers from different military branches, snipers, and unmanned aerial vehicle and missile operators. The aim is for each battalion to be able to operate independently in the battlefield.
The navy will also conduct its first torpedo test since 2007 when one of its attack submarines test-fires an SUT heavyweight torpedo to sink an enemy ship on Wednesday, the ministry said.
Growing military intimidation from the PLA has also prompted Taiwan’s defence ministry to call on some new participants for this year’s Han Kuang. Taiwan’s reserve forces are taking part for the first time, along with special forces from the military, police and coastguard, who will simulate a rescue of government leaders being held hostage by an invading force, the ministry said.
Separately, the island will hold annual public air raid drills lasting 30 minutes from 1.30pm on Tuesday to test preparedness for a PLA missile attack, the ministry said. A computer-simulated military exercise would also be held from September 14 to 18, it said.
The war games come as Beijing and Washington have been flexing their military muscle as they jostle for influence in the region. Most recently, the PLA conducted a drill near the disputed Paracel Islands from July 1 to 5, while the US Navy held its own exercise in the South China Sea at the same time, with the two sides trading barbs over the drills.
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This article Taiwan’s military tests defences against mainland China invasion in annual war games first appeared on South China Morning Post