Taiwan’s military on Wednesday said it was learning lessons from Russia’s war against Ukraine as it unveiled plans for its annual military exercise that simulates defending the island from Chinese attacks.

The island’s 23 million people live under constant threat of an invasion by China, which views the self-ruled democratic island as part of its territory to be re-taken one day, by force if necessary.

Taiwanese soldiers. Photo: Chien Chih-hung/Office of the President, via Flickr.

Russia’s brutal but stumbling invasion of Ukraine has heightened fears Beijing might similarly one day follow through on threats to annex its smaller neighbour.

As the military announced a July date for its “Han Kuang” (Han Glory) wargames, commanders made clear the conflict in Ukraine would factor into the exercises.

“The defence ministry is closely monitoring, researching and analysing regarding the war between Russia and Ukraine as well as the Communist military’s movements,” Major-General Lin Wen-huang told reporters, referring to the mainland Chinese army. 

“We will take reference of the lessons from the Russian-Ukrainian war to continue to improve our capabilities in asymmetric warfare, cognitive warfare, electronic warfare and the reserve force,” added Lin, head of a military division on joint operations. 

“Han Kuang” will be divided into a tabletop exercise next month simulating “all possible actions (China) could take to invade Taiwan” and a five-day drill in July, according to the defence ministry.

Taiwanese military and their fighter jets. Photo: Makoto Lin/Taiwan Presidential Office, via Flickr.

One of its objectives is to bolster capabilities to attack the enemy at sea, with naval vessels, warplanes, troops and the coastguard staging a live-fire “joint interception operation”.

Taiwan and mainland China are separated by the Taiwan Strait, a narrow waterway that Beijing claims as its own. 

China often reacts angrily to passages by foreign naval ships through the strait, lashing out on Wednesday after the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Sampson transited the waterway the previous day.

Colonel Shi Yi, spokesman of the People’s Liberation Army’s Eastern Theatre Command, accused Washington of “sending wrong signals to the ‘Taiwan independence’ forces and deliberately undermining the peace and stability of the Taiwan Strait”.

Beijing’s sabre-rattling has increased considerably since Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen took office in 2016, as she rejects its stance that the island is part of China.

Last year, Taiwan recorded 969 incursions by Chinese warplanes into its air defence zone, according to a database compiled by AFP — more than double the roughly 380 in 2020. 

The number of sorties reached over 300 in the first four months this year.

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