Taiwan holds latest military drills following elections

Members of Amphibious Search Team take part in a special operation's drill during a military exercise in Kaohsiung, southern Taiwan, on Jan 16, 2020. PHOTO: AP

KAOHSIUNG (AP) - Taiwanese marines staged drills on Thursday (Jan 16) as part of a series of military exercises following the re-election of pro-independence President Tsai Ing-wen.

The exercises focused on of neutralising the threat from small groups of assailants through small arms fire and hand-to-hand fighting.

As in all such drills, the assumed enemy is the military of China, which claims Taiwan as its own territory to be brought under its control by force if need be.

A spokesman for the Chinese Cabinet's Taiwan Affairs Office reiterated that threat on Thursday in response to remarks by Tsai to the BBC that Taiwan had no reason to declare independence because it is already a sovereign nation. Officially known as the Republic of China, Taiwan split from the mainland during a civil war in 1949.

"Taiwan is a sacred and inseparable part of China," spokesman Ma Xiaoguang said in a statement. "Our determination to safeguard national sovereignty and territorial integrity is rock-solid and we will not permit any person, any organisation, any political party, at any time, by any method to break away any part of China."

Other exercises earlier in the week featured Taiwan's air force, which is undergoing a major upgrade with the acquisition of the latest version of US F-16 fighters and other advanced technology.

China has an overwhelming advantage in numbers of aircraft, ships and missiles with which it threatens Taiwan, prompting the island to upgrade its defences with high-technology solutions.

Any attack would also likely draw in the US, which is legally obligated to consider threats to the island's security as a matter of "grave concern".

China's strategies towards wresting control over Taiwan are believed to include using special forces to seize key military, political and economic infrastructure sites, while degrading the island's defences with aerial bombing and missile attacks.

Even in non-election years, Taiwan's military generally holds exercises in mid-winter to show its preparedness to defend the island over the Chinese New Year festival, which this year begins on Jan 25.

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