Taiwan To Hold Live Fire Drills ‘Very Close’ To Mainland China; Beijing Warns Taipei Of Provocations

With Taiwan’s frontline island, Kinmen, emerging as a major flashpoint between China and Taiwan, Beijing has stated that it will closely watch live fire drills by the Taiwanese military for indications of “provocations.”

Taiwan is slated to host a series of live-fire military drills around its offshore islets, notably Quemoy or Kinmen, which are located just a few kilometers from Xiamen city in the People’s Republic of China.

Taiwanese Army’s Kinmen Defense Command will hold live-fire drills on Kinmen’s outer islands of Lieyu, Menghu, and Houyu between April 2 and April 25. The exercises will comprise multiple live-fire scenarios from the ground to the sea, with trajectories varying from 1,000 feet to 6,600 feet.

Spokesman Chen Binhua for the Taiwan Affairs Office of mainland China stated on March 27 that Beijing was closely observing the moves of the Taiwanese army and issued a dire warning, saying that “any provocations” or “rash” measures would not succeed.

The Taiwanese military has said that the drills are standard operations without a set objective. However, the reassurance has not lessened China’s ‘worries,’ owing to the tensions in the Kinmen region triggered by the death of three Chinese fishermen as the Taiwanese Coast Guard chased them.

According to Taiwanese authorities, the fishing boat was not authorized to be in their “prohibited or restricted waters.” However, Beijing has disputed that there were no restrictions on the waterways and accused the Taiwanese coastguards of chasing them with “violent and dangerous methods.”

Since the deadly incident, China has intensified its presence in the Kinmen region. Taiwan’s coast guard head said six to seven Chinese vessels are always present in the seas surrounding the Kinmen Islands.

On its part, Taiwan has dispatched patrol boats to alert mainland ships when they approach the waters of Quemoy and Matsu, another outpost under Taipei’s sovereignty off the coast of Fujian. Now, with the Taiwanese military gearing to conduct drills there, the Chinese officials have become overtly suspicious of any untoward activity by the self-ruled island’s forces.

Referring to the island’s ruling Democratic Progressive Party, the spokesperson said, “Whether it is ‘routine’ training or a ‘targeted’ provocation, the DPP authorities know better than anyone in their hearts.”

On February 14, Taiwanese coast guard personnel examine a boat that overturned following a chase off the shore of the Kinmen archipelago. (AP via Taiwan Coast Guard Administration) ©

China considers Taiwan a rogue Chinese province and has vowed to occupy and unite the self-ruled island with the Chinese mainland. The Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has intensified its activity near Taiwan ever since Taiwan’s pro-democracy party DPP scored a resounding victory in the Presidential elections held in January. The fishermen incident fanned the flames of existing tensions.

The head of the Institute of Politics at Xiamen University’s Taiwan Research Center, Wang Zhenwei, told the Global Times that the Taiwan DPP was attempting to project a hardline and hawkish image by conducting military drills in Kinmen to appease the island’s anti-China and secessionist factions. “It’s just like achieving the goal of propaganda via military acts.”

The military drills, however, are far from unusual. Fearing a Chinese invasion, Taiwan has been bolstering its combat capability and conducting regular military drills. On March 26, Taiwan conducted an air defense test using US-made Patriot missiles and the island’s domestically made Sky Bow system.

“The aim was to verify the command and control of joint air defense operations among the three military branches,” it said. “In the face of frequent intrusions by PLA aircraft and vessels into the airspace and waters surrounding Taiwan, the Air Force will continue to enhance training intensity to respond to potential threats.”

The commander of the Indo-Pacific Command, Admiral John Aquilino, stated recently that he thinks the military of the Chinese mainland “will be prepared to invade Taiwan by 2027.“ Although it is merely a conjecture, Taiwan is preparing its military to thwart any possible invasion by simulating live drills to train the troops against real-time dangers and adding more cutting-edge systems to its military.

Taiwan, for instance, commissioned two brand new ships to give a boost to its navy.

Two New Ships For Taiwan Navy

To defend itself against China, which has been stepping up its naval and air force operations around the island, Taiwan has put two new navy ships into service.

The first order of six stealth-capable catamarans built in the country has been completed with the arrival of the two Tuo Chiang class corvettes. Despite being relatively small, with only 41 sailors and officials on board, the ships are quick, highly maneuverable, and equipped with a variety of missiles and deck guns to confront larger Chinese vessels and rocketry.

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The commissioning at the northern port of Suao was overseen by outgoing President Tsai Ing-wen, who emphasized her efforts to revive Taiwan’s defense sector with the help of a major ally the United States, and large arms purchases.

“With this full flight of six indigenous ships completed ahead of schedule and more on the way, Taiwan is showing that it is serious about enhancing indigenous defense and protecting its waters,” Tsai posted on social media.

Tsai did not specify how many ships are “on the way,” but it is well known that the nation is working on a project to acquire at least five more corvettes of the same type.

The Tuo Chiang class is a class of catamaran-hulled corvettes featuring reduced radar cross-section (RCS) exteriors and a wave-piercing form factor. The corvette is being developed by the National Chung-Shan Institute of Science & Technology (NCSIST) of the nation, with local shipbuilder Lung Teh to develop it.

Together with its strong arsenal of anti-ship and anti-aircraft missiles, the Tuo Chiang-class boasts modern stealth technology and a catamaran hull for increased stability and speed.

With this delivery, the first six warships in this class—which were created especially for asymmetrical warfare against more powerful opponents like the PLAN—have reached their completion.

President Tsai Ing-wen emphasized the value of having strong defenses at home and cited Taiwan’s fast-paced naval development as a pillar of its security policy.