TAIWAN military exercises will include a simulation of their response to an invading force, along with using civilian operated drones, the defence ministry said Tuesday, as mounting tensions with China continue to cause unease.
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.
Taiwan is 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.
Taiwan’s annual Han Kuang drills, which start next week with a computer-aided command post exercise, do not make explicit mention of China, instead referring to “offensive forces invading Taiwan”.
The major part of it 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.
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.
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.
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.
Additional reporting by Reuters.