KAOHSIUNG, Taiwan (AP) — Taiwanese marines staged drills Thursday as part of a series of military exercises following the reelection of pro-independence President Tsai Ing-wen.
The exercises focused on neutralizing threats from small groups of assailants through small arms fire and hand-to-hand fighting.
As in all such drills, the assumed enemy is the military of China, which claims Taiwan as its own territory to be brought under its control by force if necessary.
A spokesman for the Chinese Cabinet’s Taiwan Affairs Office reiterated that threat on Thursday in response to remarks by Tsai to the BBC that Taiwan had no reason to declare independence because it is already a sovereign nation. Officially known as the Republic of China, Taiwan split from the mainland during a civil war in 1949.
“Taiwan is a sacred and inseparable part of China,” spokesman Ma Xiaoguang said in a statement. “Our determination to safeguard national sovereignty and territorial integrity is rock-solid and we will not permit any person, any organization, any political party, at any time, by any method to break away any part of China.”
Other exercises earlier in the week featured Taiwan’s air force, which is undergoing a major upgrade with the acquisition of the latest version of U.S. F-16 fighters and other advanced technology.
China has an overwhelming advantage in numbers of aircraft, ships and missiles with which it threatens Taiwan, prompting the island to upgrade its defenses with high-technology solutions. China has periodically stepped up military intimidation by circling the island with air patrols, staging military exercises along the Taiwan Strait and sailing aircraft carriers through the waterway dividing the island from the mainland.
Any attack would also likely draw in the U.S., which is legally obligated to consider threats to the island’s security as a matter of “grave concern.”
China’s strategies toward wresting control over Taiwan are believed to include using special forces to seize key military, political and economic infrastructure sites, while degrading the island’s defenses with aerial bombing and missile attacks.
Even in non-election years, Taiwan’s military generally holds exercises in mid-winter to show its preparedness to defend the island over the Lunar New Year festival, which this year begins on Jan. 25.