A Chinese military drill could turn into full-scale attack, Taiwan warns

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  • Taiwan’s Defence Ministry has presented possible scenarios for an all-out PLA assault, citing “Beijing’s goal to invade by 2025.”
  • The Ministry says China’s military could use one of its frequent drills near Taiwan to launch an assault on the island.
  • The ministry has studied PLA tactics for years and says it has “full control over the strength and the weakness of their approaches.”

Mainland China may stage a surprise attack on Taiwan by turning its joint drills close to the self-ruled island into full-scale combat operations, the defence ministry in Taipei has warned.

Such a move would be in keeping with Beijing’s goal to invade Taiwan by 2025, according to a ministry report submitted to the Taiwanese legislature.

The report said the mainland Chinese People’s Liberation Army was likely to use multipronged approaches to launch a full-blown attack, including joint strikes and landing operations, to seize Taiwan in the shortest time with minimal losses.

The report, which was worked out in line with Defence Minister Chiu Kuo-cheng’s assumption in October that the PLA would have the ability to mount a full-scale invasion by 2025, urges the legislature to support weapons procurements to counter such aggression.

China amphibious tanks invasion

Chinese amphibious tanks land on a beach during a Sino-Russian military exercise in China, August 24, 2005.
China Photos/Getty Images

The PLA might first use the pretext of staging joint war games involving its air force, navy and army on the east and south coasts of mainland China near Taiwan, to step up the intimidation factor for the Taiwanese public, the ministry said in its report.

“It will then send various kinds of its warships to the Western Pacific Ocean as a means to repel any foreign forces coming to Taiwan’s aid, and to impose strategic encirclement to discourage foreign forces from coming to help.”

The PLA would then turn its war games into real combat operations, which would include firing ballistic and cruise missiles at various Taiwanese air-defence positions, radar stations and command centres, the report said.

The mainland army’s strategic support force would also launch electromagnetic suppression operations targeting combat troop movements and important Taiwanese military facilities.

Once it had established sea and air supremacy, the PLA would then dispatch amphibious landing ships, transport planes and helicopters for troops to attack important military bases in Taiwan, the report says, adding the PLA would try to launch its operations in the shortest time possible, before the interference of foreign forces.

The report called on Taiwanese lawmakers to support the ministry’s special budget to acquire a variety of arms to strengthen its “air defence, counter-attack, air-control and sea-control” missions in order to repel the PLA aggression.

The island’s cabinet last month approved an additional defence budget of NT$237.3 billion (US$8.54 billion) to improve air and naval capabilities, including shore-based anti-ship missiles, land-based anti-aircraft systems, and attack drone projects.

Taiwan soldier shore beach landing amphibious exercise

Taiwanese soldiers conduct a shore-defense drill during a military exercise, September 16, 2021.
Ceng Shou Yi/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Taiwanese deputy defence minister Wang Hsin-lung said the ministry had devoted years to researching possible PLA invasion approaches.

“We have full control over the strength and the weakness of their approaches,” he said before the legislative session on Monday. Taiwan’s military included various scenarios in its training plans for troops based on its study of possible PLA operations, Wang said.

The PLA’s weaknesses included inadequate transport and logistic capacities, the ministry report suggested, which would make reinforcements and supplies difficult after landing in Taiwan.

The PLA would not be able to land all its forces in one go and would have to rely on non-standard ships that would need to use port facilities and transport planes that would need to take off from airports.

Given the island’s forces strengthening defence of ports and airports, the PLA was likely to find it difficult to occupy those facilities in a short time, making their landing operations highly risky, the report said.

The island’s military could also use its geographic advantage in the Taiwan Strait to intercept PLA operations and cut off their supplies, which would reduce the combat effectiveness and endurance of their landing forces.

The US and Japan had military bases close to Taiwan, and any PLA action would be closely monitored, the report pointed out. The PLA would also need to reserve some of its power to deal with possible intervention from foreign forces.