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taiwan: Taiwan war games to simulate repelling a Chinese drill that turns into attack

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Taiwan’s annual war games this year will practice “kill” zones at sea to break a blockade and simulate a scenario where China suddenly turns one of its regular drills around the island into an actual attack, the defence ministry said on Tuesday.

China, which views democratically governed Taiwan as its territory, has been staging regular exercises around the island for the past four years, to pressure Taipei to accept Beijing’s claim of sovereignty, despite Taiwan’s strong objections.

Taiwan starts its main annual Han Kuang exercises this month with table top drills, extended from a more usual five days to eight given the number of scenarios to be included, followed in July by actual combat exercises, the ministry said.

Tung Chih-hsing, head of the ministry’s joint combat planning department, told a news briefing the drills would practice how to speedily respond to one of China’s drills suddenly turning into an attack, something military planners have begun to worry about, considering their regularity.

How different branches of the armed forces can mount a coordinated response to a Chinese blockade will be another focus, Tung said.

The drills will integrate naval, air and coast guard forces, shore-mounted anti-ship weapons and drones to establish a maritime “attack and kill chain”, he added. “In addition, (we will) use naval and air forces and coast guard ships to jointly carry out escort operations” to ensure sea and air links to the outside world remain open, Tung said. During one major round of war games around Taiwan in April of last year, China practised precision strikes and blockading the island.

Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine two years ago, Taiwan has been looking to see what lessons it can learn and integrate into its own exercises, especially how the much smaller Ukrainian forces have been able to fend off the larger Russian military.

Tung said those would again feature this year, along with the lessons learned from the war in Gaza.

For both of those conflicts, Tung said officials were looking at the use of psychological warfare and asymmetric operations in particular, though without explaining exactly how they would figure in the drills.

Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen has championed the idea of “asymmetric warfare”, to make its forces, also much smaller than China’s more mobile and hard to attack, with for example vehicle-mounted missiles and drones.

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