‘Red Beaches’: Taiwan Prepares For A Potential Chinese Amphibious Invasion With Massive Drills Off Its Coastline

Amid growing concerns about China staging an amphibious invasion of Taiwan, the Taiwanese military has decided to simulate an enemy marine assault to assess how it could be thwarted.

Next week, the military will begin simulating enemy amphibious landings and beach counterattacks, Taiwan News reported. The drills will be held in Zhiben, Taitung County, and Taoyuan City’s Zhuwei fishing port.

According to the report, all of the places shortlisted for the upcoming drills have been given the moniker “red beaches,” inspired by the 2017 Ian Easton book “The Chinese Invasion Threat: Taiwan’s Defense and American Strategy in Asia,” which explores in-depth how the Chinese People’s Liberation Army would launch an invasion of Taiwan.

While emphasizing that most of the nation’s coastline would provide serious challenges, Easton listed 14 beaches and coastal regions in Taiwan that will likely allow potential invaders to establish a beachhead.

The book begins with Easton painting a grim picture of China’s goals concerning Taiwan. The PLA’s approach to preparing and carrying out an invasion under ideal conditions is then thoroughly described to the level of specific army divisions, brigades, regiments, navy, and air force squadrons.

Yushan-class landing platform dock - Wikipedia
Taiwan’s Yushan-class landing platform dock – Wikipedia

According to Easton, Taiwan’s rugged coastline would be very hostile to an occupying force, and the few beaches suitable for widespread landings are closely guarded. He finally highlights areas where an invasion would likely go wrong regarding intelligence, troops, and equipment.

As for the schedule of Taiwan’s upcoming drills, beginning its maneuvers at Zhuwei on March 8 and 9, the Amphibious 151st Fleet will move to Zhiben for a second round on April 12 and 13.

Separately, the 192nd Fleet – a minesweeping unit – is scheduled to conduct operations from March 27 to 31 off the southwest coast of Taiwan, according to the Ministry of National Defense. The report suggested that the exercise might be intended to simulate the creation of a secure corridor for shipping during a conflict.

These drills will be held days after a Japanese think tank Sasakawa Peace Foundation simulated a cross-strait conflict in which China tried to invade Taiwan via an amphibious assault in 2026, as previously reported by EurAsian Times. It concluded that if the US and Japan intervened, they could thwart an invasion but with massive losses.

However, as the threat of a Chinese invasion becomes more pronounced, Taiwan has taken it upon itself to prepare for all eventualities. Earlier, as part of designing a robust response to a potential invasion, the Republic of China (ROC) Navy inducted an amphibious combat ship named ‘Yu Shan’ on September 30 that could be used to deploy troops and strengthen supply lines to critical islands.

Further, the Taiwanese Defense minister recently said that if the island’s military is well-prepared, they might be able to defeat the first Chinese onslaught. The drills planned for next week is likely a step in that direction, besides the military modernization and purchases undertaken by the government.

A Looming Threat Of Chinese Amphibious Invasion

The conflict between Russia and Ukraine has sparked worries that Beijing may feel encouraged to invade the island that it has vowed to unite with the Chinese mainland.

Further, the threat of an invasion was reinforced in August 2022, triggered by Nancy Pelosi’s visit. Beijing carried out large-scale military drills, including operations off the east and west of the island, seemingly in preparation for encircling Taiwan and cutting it off from outside assistance.

It also carried out an important exercise on August 31, demonstrating how it could start a big amphibious invasion of Taiwan by using enormous civilian vessels. As part of those drills, the PLAN stationed several sizable warships, passenger ferries, and an amphibious landing craft at a Chinese beach close to the Taiwan Strait.

China has not officially acknowledged its use of civilian ferries or fishing vessels that have doubled as a maritime militia. However, Taiwan has all reasons to worry. Military experts have warned that any Chinese invasion would start with an amphibious assault.

Besides transporting PLA troops, these civilian vessels could also help ship heavy military vehicles, as evident in another set of drills conducted in November 2022. At the time, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) practiced loading various military vehicles on non-military vessels belonging to a state-owned shipbuilder.

In December 2022, the PLA Marine Corps conducted drills that were believed to be a simulation of Taiwan’s invasion by military watchers. The PLA Marine Corps exercise demonstrated the potential of a combined arms battalion.

File Image: Amphibious armored vehicles attached to a brigade under the PLA Marine Corps head to the designed training waters during a maritime training exercise on March 13, 2022

An unnamed PLA Navy Marine Corps brigade conducted land, sea, and air exercises that included obstacle removal, surveillance, and firing while operating as a single battalion.

According to the report, several assault boats and amphibious armored vehicles carrying marines moved towards the target area, while helicopters carrying the reconnaissance and attack unit took off to execute infiltration and attack operations to the rear of the enemy.

The amphibious armored vehicle then launched smoke bombs to conceal the troops as they cleared out obstacles before the marines conducted a surprise landing and breached the enemy’s beach defenses.

Additionally, the PLA Navy has also focused its attention on an amphibious assault fleet. For instance, late last year, China’s Type 075 amphibious assault ships Hainan and Guangxi completed full-course training tests, including an evaluation on the use of weaponry.

Against that backdrop and with China preparing for what appears to be an amphibious invasion, Taiwan is using all the options available, including the simulation of a potential amphibious assault.