As tensions with China simmer, Taiwan kicks off 5 days of military exercises simulating an invasion

  • Taiwan began five days of computer-aided military drills on Monday, after expressing anger at an increase in military maneuvering by mainland Chinese forces.
  • The Taiwanese exercise is designed to test commanders' ability to adopt the right strategy and coordinate different forces while under attack, the Defense Ministry says.
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Taiwan began five days of computer-aided war games on Monday, simulating an attack on the island by the People's Liberation Army (PLA).

The drills are part of the Han Kuang exercises, Taiwan's largest annual war games. An earlier phase of the exercises in July included live-fire drills.

The war games were designed to test Taiwanese commanders' ability to adopt the right defence strategy and coordinate different forces while under attack, the defence ministry said.

Officials from the American Institute in Taiwan, the United States' de facto embassy on the island, were invited to observe the drills, a military insider said.

"Previously, the US Indo-Pacific Command sent officers and military experts to observe the computer-aided drills and offer their advice after the simulations of various scenarios of a PLA attack," said the source, who asked not to be named. "But this year, because of the coronavirus pandemic, the US was unable to send them."

Taiwanese M110 self-propelled Howitzers fire during the annual Han Kuang exercises, in southern Taiwan, May 30, 2019.AP Photo/Chiang Ying-ying

The computer-aided war games were scheduled to be held earlier in the year but were postponed because of the global health crisis.

The five-day exercise is being held at the defence ministry's joint training centre in Taipei and is being observed by experts from the National Defence University. The drills will also use the Joint Theatre Level Simulation (JTLS) system bought from the US to simulate combined operations.

The JTLS was designed to create a realistic environment in which military commanders could operate as they would in a real-world situation, the source said, adding that it would help them to hone their decision-making skills and work out how to counter various attacks.

Operational data collected during the exercise would later be sent to the US experts for analysis and feedback, the person said.

Meanwhile, Xavier Chang, a spokesman for Taiwan's Presidential Office, said interministerial military crisis response drills had also been conducted by national security units and the defence minister.

On Wednesday and Thursday, more than 30 PLA warplanes and seven PLA warships were detected in an area southwest of Taiwan, prompting the island's government to hold a news conference to condemn Beijing for its provocative actions.

One of the simulations in this week's exercises recreates an attack from this area.

An AH-64 Apache helicopter fires flares during Taiwan's annual Han Kuang military drill simulating a Chinese invasion, in Taichung, Taiwan June 7, 2018.Thomson Reuters

Chang Che-ping, Taiwan's vice-minister for defence, said Beijing's actions were a threat to peace and stability in the region.

By straying into the southwestern side of Taiwan's air defence identification zone, the military maneuvring by Beijing also put international aviation safety at risk as the area was close to international flight paths, he said.

Taiwan's foreign ministry said it would not give in to intimidation but did not seek confrontation with Beijing.

"The Chinese government is introducing a factor of extreme instability in the region, ministry spokeswoman Joanne Ou said on Thursday. "The international community should pay close heed to this growing aggressiveness."

Taiwan had provided information about the movements of the PLA to a number of its allies.

Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen on Friday warned Beijing not to underestimate the island's will to defend itself or the determination of the Taiwanese people to safeguard their free and democratic way of life.

"When it comes to our sovereign territory, we will not give an inch. When it comes to democratic freedoms, we will stand firm," she said on Facebook.

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