Taipei: Taiwan’s military on Wednesday announced a series of newly designed large-scale military drills for this year aimed at countering China’s renewed threat to use force to gain control over the island. While Taiwan’s armed forces regularly hold such exercises, this year’s drills are “being drafted based on newly adopted tactics for defending against a possible Chinese invasion,” the official Central News Agency quoted Defence Ministry planning chief Maj Gen Yeh Kuo-hui as saying. China claims sovereignty over the self-governing island democracy, which split from the mainland amid civil war in 1949.
Chinese President Xi Jinping renewed the threat of force in his January 2 message to the island, saying China reserved that right if necessary to counter interference by external forces and what he called an extremely small number of Taiwanese separatists. Although Xi didn’t mention the US by name, Washington is a key supplier of weaponry to the island and is legally bound to respond to threats against Taiwan. With its 3 million-member armed forces and the world’s second largest defense budget of USD 173 billion, China has the overwhelming military edge over Taiwan.
Xi has been ratcheting up the military threat to put pressure on independence-leaning Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen. Tsai responded to Xi’s speech by rejecting demands for unification between the sides, saying, “China must face the fact of the existence of Taiwan.” Taiwan wields a much smaller by technologically sophisticated force that would be relied on to hold off a Chinese assault until outside help arrives. In recent years, Taiwan’s strategy has evolved from defeating a Chinese landing force to repelling an invasion on sea and in the air