Taiwan to simulate repelling invasion amid China tensions

A file photo of M60A3 tanks firing off shells during annual Han Kuang military drill in Penghu, Taiwan, on May 25, 2017. PHOTO: REUTERS

TAIPEI (REUTERS) - Taiwan will simulate repelling an invading force, emergency repairs of a major air base and using civilian-operated drones as part of military exercises starting next week, the defence ministry said on Tuesday (April 24) amid growing tensions with China.

Over the past year or so, China has ramped up military drills around self-ruled and democratic Taiwan, including flying bombers and other military aircraft around the island.

China claims Taiwan as its sacred territory, and its hostility towards the island has grown since the 2016 election as president of Tsai Ing-wen from the pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party.

China has been issuing increasingly strident calls for Taiwan to toe the line, even as Tsai has pledged to maintain the status quo and keep the peace.

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.

Taiwan is well equipped with mostly US-made weaponry, but has been pushing for Washington to sell it more advanced equipment, including new fighter jets, to help it better deter its giant neighbour.

Military experts say the balance of power between Taiwan and China has now shifted decisively in China's favour, and China could likely overwhelm the island unless U.S. forces came quickly to Taiwan's aid.

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.

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.