As concerns about nuclear war with North Korea wane, Taiwan is reminding the world that its own relations with Beijing have been progressively deteriorating; to do that the small island nation will simulate a response to an "invading force", along with using civilian operated drones, in war games next week amid its increasing tensions with China the defense ministry said Tuesday according to Reuters.
While the annual Han Kuang drills, set to begin on April 30 with a computer-aided command post exercise, make no mention of China, only “offensive forces invading Taiwan” and will include a live-fire field training exercise and “enemy elimination on beaches”, it is clear that the "hypothetical" aggressor is China.
The major part of the drill will be a live-fire field training exercise from June 4-8, including “enemy elimination on beaches”, the ministry said.
“Civilian resources will also be integrated into this exercise to support military operations,” it added, envisioning exercises involving a private drone army. Tech companies will offer support with drones to mark targets and provide battlefield surveillance, and building companies will help with emergency runway repairs for the Ching Chuan Kang air base in central Taiwan, the ministry said.
According to a recent survey conducted by the Taiwan Foundation for Democracy, 68% of people said they would join the army or find other means of resistance should China invade.
The Air Combat Command will issue air raid alerts with an “aerial threat warning system” during the air defence drills, and the Coast Guard will also join in exercises with the navy, it added. In January, Taiwan held a military drill at the Port of Hualien using reconnaissance planes and F-16 fighter jets.
Beijing has been carrying out its own military operations close to the autonomous island for the past year. In March, Taiwan scrambled its air force to shadow Chinese fighter jets as they conducted drills through the Bashi Channel. Just days before, Beijing sent its sole operational aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, through the narrow Taiwan Strait that separates the two regions. China has breached Taiwan’s sea and air borders over the last year during its increased military maneuvers; on April 18, it undertook live-fire military exercises.
Chieh Chung, from the Taipei-based think tank, the National Policy Foundation, said Beijing's actions were part of its mind games with its neighbor.
"What is worth noticing is that over the past one or two years, Beijing has regularly taken advantage of these cheap, routine, small-sized, regional drills to serve its purpose of psychological warfare against Taiwan," he told Channel News Asia.
* * *
While Taiwan’s military is well-equipped thanks predominantly to US-made weaponry, military experts say China would likely overwhelm the island if any military action were to be taken, leaving them to reply on the US coming to their defence.
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 likely be a hugely destructive war with China over the island.
The tensions between the two sovereigns have been rising ever since the Trump election victory in which the US president spoke on the phone with the president of Taiwan, at the time one of his first diplomatic snafus. Taiwan has historically been one of China’s most sensitive issues and a potential military flashpoint. Beijing claims Taiwan as its sacred territory and considers it a Chinese province, not a nation. China has never renounced the use of force to bring the island under Chinese control and has ramped up military exercises in the past year or so.
China’s hostility towards Taiwan has risen since the 2016 election of President Tsai Ing-wen, a member of the island’s pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party, despite Tsai saying she wants to maintain the status quo under the ‘one China’ policy.