The annual Han Kuang military drills in Taiwan this year will focus on repelling a blockade of the island and sustaining the fighting capability of its soldiers, according to the defense ministry on Wednesday.
China, which considers democratically controlled Taiwan to be its own territory, has increased military pressure on Taiwan in the last three years in an attempt to enforce its sovereignty claim.
China practised precision strikes and blockades in drills around the island this month that were staged after Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen met U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Kevin McCarthy in Los Angeles.
Taiwan’s defence ministry said the Han Kuang exercises would be split into two parts – tabletop drills from May 15-19, and mobilised forces from July 24-28 that will participate in live-fire exercises.
The focus will be on combat forces “preservation” and “maritime interception”, it said.
That will include using civilian airports and dispersing air assets, as well as disguising forces on the ground, the ministry said.
The naval element will integrate sea, air and land forces to attack enemy forces and amphibious assault ships, and to protect sea lanes and counter blockade efforts, it said.
“Of course our drills are based on the threat of the communists invading Taiwan and its recent military exercises around Taiwan,” the ministry’s combat planning chief, General Lin Wen-huang, told a news conference.
Beijing has never renounced using force to bring the island under its control. Taiwan rejects Beijing’s sovereignty claims and has vowed to defend its freedom and democracy.
China’s navy last week put out a slickly produced video to celebrate its 74th anniversary, showing its aircraft carrier the Shandong and new amphibious assault ships simulating an attack and landing somewhere in “Western Pacific waters”, suggesting they were planning a Taiwan contingency.
“It takes a strong navy to safeguard the country’s sovereignty and territorial integrity,” Zhu Fenglian, spokesperson for China’s Taiwan Affairs Office, said on Wednesday when asked what message the video was giving.
“The Democratic Progressive Party authorities and Taiwan independence separatist forces are trying to collude with external forces, but there’s no chance of splitting the country,” she said, referring to Taiwan’s ruling party.
Taiwan is trying to boost its defensive capabilities by investing in new equipment such as long-range missiles and drones and by extending compulsory military service to one year.
Although Taiwan’s military is generally well-trained and well-equipped with mostly U.S.-made hardware, China has huge numerical superiority and is adding advanced equipment such as stealth fighters.
Speaking to reporters at parliament, Taiwan National Security Bureau Director-General Tsai Ming-yen said China was using new “cognitive warfare” methods to try to sway public opinion and spread fake news ahead of January’s presidential elections.
“We need to continue paying attention to what they are up to during the election process,” he said.