Taiwan has held military drills on an island it controls just off the Chinese coast, in a renewed signal of its determination to defend itself from Chinese threats.
The head of Kinmen’s defence command said the beach landing exercise and simulated attack by the navy’s elite “frogman” commandos were to show the ability of the armed forces to provide security in the Taiwan Strait ahead of next month’s Lunar New Year holiday.
The drills follow China’s revelation of live-fire exercises in the area just days after Taiwanese voters elected independence-leaning Tsai Ing-wen as president on January 16.
The unit involved, the 31st Group Army, is charged with responding to contingencies involving Taiwan and is based in the city of Xiamen, directly across a narrow waterway from Kinmen.
China claims Taiwan as its own territory and threatens to use force to bring the island under its control.
The Kinmen commander, Hau Yi-he, said no unusual Chinese military movements had been detected since the election and Taiwan’s forces would continue with routine drills.
“We have been monitoring their (China’s) military movements. So far, it has remained normal,” he said.
Taiwan retained Kinmen and the Matsu island group to the north as front-line defence outposts for Nationalist forces that retreated to Taiwan following the communists’ 1949 sweep to power in China’s civil war.
While China in recent years has promoted the concept of peaceful unification rather than outright invasion, it has refused to drop its military threat and passed a law in 2005 laying out the conditions under which it would attack.
While not laying out a timetable, President Xi Jinping has told visitors he does not wish the issue of independence to be put off for future generations.
Writing in the Communist Party newspaper Global Times, commentator and retired general Luo Yuan said China would never bend in its determination to realise unification, regardless of developments on Taiwan.
“As long as ’peace’ has not died, we will give 100%,” said Gen Luo, whose views reflect a popular strain of thinking among nationalist Chinese.
“But if the ’Taiwan independence’ elements force us into a corner, then we have no other choice but ’unification by force’.”