June 24, 2024

Taiwan Military Drills Offer Chilling Insight into Defense Plan If China Attacks

Across Taiwan, residents are preparing for an attack.

From Monday to Thursday this week, Taiwan will hold a defense exercise simulating a Chinese air attack, preparing civilians for what to do if China invades. And from Monday to Friday, Taiwan will run a live fire practice to test Taiwan’s combat readiness to respond to a Chinese invasion, according to the Ministry of National Defense.

Civilians will have to shelter in place when the defense drill is underway, according to CNA. In some places, drivers out on the streets will be asked to stop their cars and evacuate they, along with passengers on public transport, are bringing cities to a standstill, according to the Taipei Department of Transport.

The entire drill is aimed at reducing casualties in the event of an attack by China, which has been increasingly aggressive towards Taiwan in recent days. Just in the past few weeks, China has sent a record number of warships to waters around Taiwan. And according to American officials, the current assessment of the US government is that Chinese President Xi Jinping is working to prepare for a conflict in 2025 or 2027.

“Knowing the location of air raid shelters and evacuation procedures will help improve response time and individual survivability in the face of real threats,” Taipei City Government said in a statement.

To prepare civilians for a Chinese invasion, branch leaders of civil defense corps divisions to work with police to strengthen air-raid exercises, prepare evacuation guidelines and emergency supplies and medical equipment, according to the Taipei City government.

even though China is rehearsing how it would blockade Taiwanwith warships, jets, and an aircraft carrier, Taiwan is probably preparing for China to execute another, more sudden, attack, said Freddy Lim, a Taiwanese lawmaker.

“We think China’s strategy is how to capture Taiwan quickly and avoid foreign intervention,” Lim told The Daily Beast in an interview this week. “They want to do it quickly.”

People who took part in an air raid drill in Taipei City.

Taipei City Government

The key to Taiwan will be its sudden intelligence, according to Tony Hu, the first Pentagon senior country director for Taiwan.

“If China wants to take over Taiwan, it must do it quickly and end it quickly and ask Taiwan to surrender before foreign forces can come to help,” Hu said. “A blockade will not work… A blockade, which takes months to have its effects—to starve the people—is not going to get them to where they want to go… Not only do they give foreign forces a chance to build up and then there is no chance that China will have a conflict on Taiwan.”

Some of the upcoming exercises are aimed at preparing the Taiwanese people for a Chinese invasion. But the rest of the exercises are aimed at sending a message to China that invading Taiwan will be far too costly, according to Hu.

“It is very important that the people of Taiwan are resilient in order to recover and survive the kind of attacks expected from China. So it’s time to do exercises, get people ready to be ready just in case. It is also a hindrance that the people are ready and prepared in itself,” Hu told The Daily Beast.

Photo of a soldier rappelling down from a Black Hawk helicopter in New Taipei City, Taiwan.

A soldier rappels down a Black Hawk helicopter during a drill exercise in New Taipei City, Taiwan, on July 20, 2023.

Ann Wang/Reuters

“I hope that the Communist Party, the leadership in the Communist Party, recognizes that Taiwan is not easy for you to acquire – it will be a difficult battle for them to try to take over Taiwan,” Hu said.

Taiwan is working to acquire Advanced Surface-to-Air Missile Systems (NASAMS) from the United States to prepare to defend Taiwan, Taiwan’s defense minister said this week.

They will face stronger resilience.

Discussions in the US Congress about sending NASAMS to Taiwan are underway, The Daily Beast has learned.

“Our top priority in Asia is to make sure Taiwan has the resources and training to deter Chinese aggression,” Sen. Jim Risch (R-ID), ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, told The Daily Beast when asked about the NASAMS transfer talks.

Taiwan still needs better intelligence-sharing cooperation with the United States, as well as long-range weapons, Lim, the Taiwanese lawmaker, stressed. It also needs to continue working on being prepared to withstand the first, second, third and fourth wave of attacks from China, he said.

At this point, it is not clear that China believes it would lose if it attacked Taiwan, according to Lim.

Photo of two F-16 fighter jets flying during a drill exercise over New Taipei City, Taiwan.

F-16 fighter jets fly during a drill exercise in New Taipei City, Taiwan, on July 20, 2023.

Ann Wang/Reuters

“I don’t know” if China thinks he will lose, he admitted to The Daily Beast. “I think logically they should understand, especially when they see the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the reaction from the international community and how resilient the Ukrainians are showing. They should then logically know that it is even more difficult to invade Taiwan from China and… they will face stronger resilience from the Taiwanese people.”

However, strengthening Taiwan’s defenses is probably not enough to prepare for a Chinese invasion. ​​​​Some other aspects of a strong defense from Taiwan would inevitably put pressure on the United States and other allies, and President Joe Biden has said that US forces would defend Taiwan if China attacks Taiwan.

If China attacks Taiwan and the United States moves to respond, it will almost certainly affect US troops stationed in Japan. But it’s not clear that Japan is so willing to jump into the fray, said Kevin Maher, former head of the Office of Japanese Affairs at the US State Department.

A photo of a soldier aiming a rocket launcher during a drill exercise in New Taipei City, Taiwan.

A soldier holds a rocket launcher during a drill exercise in New Taipei City, Taiwan July 20, 2023.

Ann Wang/Reuters

China could have a “two-pronged approach. ​​​​The direct action against Taiwan would be at the same time as trying to neutralize the US ability to flow or resupply armed forces,” Maher told The Daily Beast. “At what point does Japan go beyond cooperating with the United States … but also cooperating with the US to protect Taiwan? That’s a changing situation in Japan and the government is thinking about that.”

Japan has used force to settle international disputes since World War II. But part of Japan’s approach is changing: In 2015, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe approved a law that would allow Japan respond militarily if an ally is attackedraising resistance from some worried about Japan falling into other countries’ conflicts.

Preparing for the Worst

In a simulation hosted by the Center for Strategic and International Studies, the United States was able to oppose a China’s invasion of Taiwan—with the support of Japan.

But in the wargame – which was organized by the Japan Forum for Strategic Studies in Tokyo – a communication breakdown between Japan, Taiwan, and the United States was highly anticipated, according to Maher, who participated as the US representative.

Fixing the lack of communication channels and joint operational planning in the coming years between Japan, Taiwan and the United States will be crucial to winning against China.

“There needs to be some kind of mechanism for us to talk to the Taiwanese. It’s obviously very politically sensitive because the Chinese would say: Well, you’re interfering with internal affairs,” he said.

Some of China’s latest aggressive moves, such as the record number of warships, may have more to do with sending a message at home, than Beijing trying to take any dangerous steps toward Taiwan, according to Lim.

“On one hand, China tried to fix the relationship with the United States. But on the other hand, China does not want to show that they are softer on the Taiwan issue … they try to calm down their own people,” he told the Daily Beast. “How their own people feel when trying to fix the relationship with the international community, does not mean that they will be softer on Taiwan.”

However, Xi’s rhetoric in recent days has been alarming.

During a visit to the People’s Liberation Army’s Eastern Theater, which faces Taiwan, in recent days, Xi called for “improvement in war and combat planning… and speeding up training under real combat conditions to raise the forces’ ability to fight and win.”

And while Xi’s orders to “plan war” may be more about sending a message to his own people, Taiwan cannot risk Xi deciding to act on his threats.

“There is still a risk that he would make the wrong move. That’s why I think we should always prepare ourselves… how we strengthen our national defense, and how we strengthen our relationship with our allies,” said Lim. “That’s the most important thing.”

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