Taiwan aims to learn lessons of Ukraine in annual military drills

REUTERS/Tyrone Siu/File Photo
FILE PHOTO: Female soldiers of an artillery unit take part in the live fire Han Kuang military exercise, which simulates China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) invading the island, in Pingtung, Taiwan May 30, 2019.

TAIPEI (Reuters) – Taiwan will incorporate lessons learned from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine into upcoming military exercises aimed at practising fighting off a Chinese attack, the island’s defence ministry said on Tuesday.

Taiwan, claimed by China as its own territory, has raised its alert level since the Russian invasion of Ukraine, wary of the possibility Beijing might make a similar move on the island, though it has reported no signs this is about to happen.

What lessons to learn from the war on how the island could defend itself if China attacked have been widely debated in Taiwan, and discussed with the United States, according to Taiwan’s defence minister.

The defence ministry said this year’s Han Kuang exercises, Taiwan’s largest annual war games, would be split into two parts, in May and July.

The May part would partly be a tabletop exercise based on “various possible actions of the Chinese Communist Party in recent years to invade Taiwan, taking into account the lessons of the Russian-Ukrainian war”, it said in a statement.

There will also be five days of drills with soldiers, including live-fire exercises that will take place in July, the ministry added.

The Han Kuang exercise will focus on attacking the enemy at sea, preserving combat forces and “integrating the total force of the whole people to support military operations”, a reference to civil defence and reservist reforms that aim to improve Taiwan’s ability to fight a war with China.

While Taiwanese officials have seen many parallels in the Ukraine war and their own situation, including having their own giant neighbour with territorial ambitions, they have also pointed to major differences.

Taiwan has talked, for example, of the “natural barrier” of the Taiwan Strait, which would make China putting troops on the ground much more difficult than just crossing a land border.

China has dismissed any comparisons between Ukraine and Taiwan, saying that Taiwan is a part of China and not an independent country.

China has been stepping up its military pressure against Taiwan over the past two years or so.

Taiwan rejects China’s sovereignty claims and says only the island’s people can decide their future.