Taiwanese troops using tanks, mortars and small arms staged an exercise to repel an attack from China, which increased its threats to reclaim the island and intensified its own displays of military might.
“No matter what happens around the Taiwan Strait, our determination to keep our homeland will never change,” Major General Chen Chong-ji, director of the Political Warfare Department, said on Tuesday.
The exercises at the Hukou military base, south of the capital, Taipei, were intended to show Taiwan’s determination to keep the peace between the two sides through a show of force, Chen said.
They also aim to reassure the public that the military is maintaining its guard ahead of the Lunar New Year festival next month, when many soldiers take their leave.
China considers the democratically governed island, which lies 160 km (100 miles) off its southeast coast, as part of its territory.
But President Tsai Ing-wen, who was re-elected in January 2020, firmly rejected Beijing’s claim, leading it to organize war games and send fighter jets and reconnaissance planes on an almost daily basis. to Taiwan in recent months. Analysts say “gray zone” war tactics are aimed at exhausting the Taiwanese military.
Tsai sought to bolster the island’s defenses by initiating a program to build new submarines and purchase billions of dollars in weapons from the United States, including upgraded F-16 fighter jets, drones armed, rocket systems and Harpoon missiles capable of hitting both sea and land targets.
Washington has stepped up support for Taiwan as its ties with Beijing deteriorated last year, including record arms sales, visits by senior officials and the end of decades-long restrictions on trade between US and Taiwanese officials. .
China to sanction US officials
On Monday, Beijing said it would sanction US officials it said behaved badly in Taiwan.
“Due to the bad actions of the United States, China has decided to impose sanctions on responsible American officials who have engaged in unpleasant behavior on the Taiwan issue,” said Hua Chunying, spokesman for the Chinese ministry. Foreign Affairs.
She did not specify the names of the American officials under sanction and the nature of the sanctions.
For Chinese President Xi Jinping, Taiwan’s reunification with the mainland is a matter of heritage. In a 2019 speech, he warned Taiwan that any effort to assert its independence would be welcomed by the armed forces. Chinese officials describe Taiwan as the most important and sensitive issue in China’s relations with the United States, and they have already announced sanctions against American companies selling arms to Taiwan, although no it is not clear how or if they were applied.
Relations between the United States and China, the world’s two largest economies, have plunged to their lowest level in decades, with disagreements over issues such as Taiwan, Hong Kong, human rights, the coronavirus pandemic, the South China Sea, trade and espionage.
China last year unveiled sanctions against 11 US citizens, including Republican Party lawmakers, in response to Washington’s sanctions against Hong Kong and Chinese officials accused of restricting political freedom in the former British colony.
Escalating US-China tensions have raised alarms, with some observers fearing that the “cold war” between the two countries could turn hot. Rex Tillerson, the former US secretary of state, told Foreign Policy magazine earlier this month that he had “a fear that we are coming to a military conflict with China within a decade and that will be when they will. will be moving to Taiwan ”.
Tillerson said President Xi’s plan was to “raise the stakes of US military losses so significantly that the American people will say, ‘Wait a minute, we are going to suffer thousands of lives to save Taiwan. Why would we do this? He added, “And then China will get it de facto, or we’ll have a really ugly war in the Pacific.” “
Donald Trump’s outgoing administration last week declassified its strategy to counter China, a policy that focuses on accelerating India’s rise as a counterweight to Beijing and enabling Taiwan to “develop an effective asymmetric defense strategy and capabilities that will help ensure its security, lack of coercion, resilience and ability to engage China. on its own terms ”.
With the world’s largest standing army, numbering nearly two million, China has the largest navy, with around 350 ships, including two aircraft carriers and around 56 submarines. It also has around 2,000 combatants and bombers and 1,250 ground-launched ballistic missiles, seen as an essential strategic and psychological weapon against Taiwan.
Taiwan’s armed forces are only a fraction of that number, with a large chunk of its ground forces made up of short-term conscripts and its fleet numbering only 86 ships – about half of which are missiles for coastal patrols.