The Russian invasion of Ukraine has inevitably put the spotlight on China and Taiwan with the latter bolstering its military readiness to take on a challenge from Beijing. Though experts have ruled out a Chinese attack on Taiwan any time soon, the possibility has not completely been ruled out by the island state.
The Taiwanese Defense Ministry conducted military drills ‘Lien Hsiang’ near the capital Taipei and surrounding areas on April 12, as the threat of a Chinese invasion in the future looms large.
Hundreds of locals cheered the roaring military jets during the drill operations, which took place early in the morning.
The drills were conducted as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has prompted the self-governing island to assess its readiness for a mainland Chinese attack.
Beijing, which claims Taiwan as part of its sovereignty, has not ruled out using force to seize control of the island and has increased pressure on President Tsai Ing-wen to accede to unification negotiations.
People in Taipei were taken aback by the drills, which saw warplanes roar overhead without warning from 5 a.m. to 7 a.m., leading some to believe a PLA attack was underway, noted South China Morning Post. Military aircraft are usually only seen in Taipei during parades and special events.
Defense ministry spokesman Sun Li-fang later told reporters that it was a test of “anti-air combat operation command and troop deployments of joint forces military zones, naval fleets, major air and seaports, bases and field units”. All of the military troops engaged in the simulation responded “normally”.
According to military sources, US-made F-16 fighter jets and AH-64 Apache assault helicopters, as well as F-CK-1 Ching Kuo Indigenous Defense Fighters, were brought to Taipei to test the responses of those units.
Taiwan inducted 64 F-16 Viper fighter jets that it bought from the United States in November last year whereas a brigade of US-made AH-64 Apache attack helicopters was activated in 2018 amid much fanfare.
It is pertinent to mention that Taiwan has spent billions of dollars on buying armament from the United States, much to China’s detriment.
Other units from across Taiwan, such as missile bastions, airbases, and navy ports, were also tested in the exercise, which was staged early in the morning to prevent disturbing civilian flights, according to officials.
Taiwan has been conducting military drills and modernizing and reforming its military due to the threat posed by China.
Preparing For The Worst
China’s intrusions into the area around the Taiwan Island have become routine since 2020. According to Taiwan Times, four Chinese military aircraft flew into Taiwan’s air defense identification zone (ADIZ) as latest as of April 5.
China considers Taiwan a rogue province that it has vowed to reunite with the mainland, with violence if necessary. The Russian invasion of Ukraine is being keenly watched in Taipei which believes that it is not fully prepared to combat a similar military operation by China.
If Taiwan engages in secession incited by the US and triggers a war, PLA will launch thousands of missiles on day one (the Russian military has used fewer than 1,000 so far) and smash the Taiwan army in dozens of hours. So, the Tsai Ing-wen authority should avoid provoking a war https://t.co/7JNStydtAf
— Hu Xijin 胡锡进 (@HuXijin_GT) April 12, 2022
In recent times, the Taiwanese military has undertaken several reforms to its military to bolster its defense against China. A few days ago, it conducted military drills with the Javelin missiles which have been widely deployed by the Ukrainians against Russia.
Earlier, in March, it had conducted live-fire drills on two of its islands not too far from the Chinese mainland.
Meanwhile, Taiwan hosts large-scale military exercise to counter possible PLA operations targeting targets near the border with China pic.twitter.com/6DLGHEC6i3
— Vincent Ligorio (@LigorioVincent) March 17, 2022
On the day that Taiwan simulated a PLA attack and conducted military drills, Taiwan’s Defense Ministry released a civil-defense handbook for the people to survive an attack or disaster. Both, the handbook and the drills were derided by military experts in mainland China.
Both the drills and the handbook, from a military standpoint, will be futile in saving “Taiwan independence” secessionist forces should a cross-Straits conflict erupt because the PLA’s overwhelming capabilities will render them useless, a Chinese mainland military expert told the Global Times, requesting anonymity.
Even if a cross-Strait, military confrontation breaks out, the PLA will only target secessionists, not ordinary people, according to the expert, who also pointed out that Taiwan’s defense authority is aiming to inflate the mainland’s “danger” by distributing the manual.
4 PLA aircraft (Y-8 EW, Z-9 ASW and J-16*2) entered #Taiwan’s southwest ADIZ on April 12, 2022. Please check our official website for more information: https://t.co/m3vZuHc5K3 pic.twitter.com/zfKrNf10H8
— 國防部 Ministry of National Defense, R.O.C. ?? (@MoNDefense) April 12, 2022
According to Taiwan media reports, PLA warplanes returned to Taiwan’s self-proclaimed southwest air defense identification zone on Tuesday, marking the first complete attendance since the beginning of April.
China Central Television (CCTV) had reported on April 11 that a PLA Air Force aviation brigade based in East China just acquired a fresh batch of J-16 fighter jets. This aircraft has been a regular presence in PLA patrols and drills near Taiwan’s island.
Further, Chinese analysts believe that the PLA’s commissioning of more advanced fighter jets like the J-16 will eventually replace earlier fighter jets like the J-7 and J-8, enhancing the PLA’s combat capacity, according to Global Times.
This indicates that both sides have geared themselves up for long warfare of attrition and while the mammoth Chinese military is going to intimidate Taiwan, the latter would focus all its resources and energy on combating the omnipresent threat of a Chinese invasion.