The Taiwanese military has reassured the people of the self-ruled island that it is constantly improving its combat readiness and “stands ready to fight”.
The unequivocal message from Taiwan’s military forces comes as a response to Chinese President Xi Jinping once again stating his resolve to recapture Taiwan, even by use of force.
In a televised January 2 speech to mark the 40th anniversary of a de facto ceasefire in the Taiwan Strait, Xi told the nation: “We make no promise to renounce the use of force and reserve the option of taking all necessary means to serve the end [of China’s reunification].”
Xi also addressed a plenary meeting attended by the People’s Liberation Army’s top commanders last week, during which he explicitly told the army to be prepared for combat and conflict at any time.
Taiwan’s defense ministry has since made public its packed schedule of drills for 2019. It includes a month-long combat readiness exercise in the first quarter, its annual anti-Chinese invasion exercise in the second quarter, a massive amphibious warfare operation in the third quarter and an anti-circumnavigation and blockade drill by its air force in the latter part of the year.
A lieutenant general overseeing operations and planning told the island’s Central News Agency that the wide-ranging drills, big and small, were intended to incorporate and test new tactics and contingency plans updated in response to China’s military buildup.
Taiwan’s decades-long priority to resist beach sorties by the PLA has also been replaced by a more holistic strategy to protect the outer perimeters of the island’s territorial waters and airspace. The new approach resulted from a comprehensive defense review at the behest of Tsai Ing-wen soon after she took office in May 2016.
Taiwanese troops will fire the opening salvos and deploy AH-64E Apache attack helicopters and Hellfire missiles in the first live-fire war game of the year on January 17, as the defense forces simulate a PLA invasion via the city of Taichung in central Taiwan.