Taiwanese troops and armoured vehicles were deployed Thursday for a mock urban street battle in the latest drill preparing forces against China, which has long vowed to take the island.
Democratic Taiwan lives under constant threat of an invasion by authoritarian China, which claims the self-ruled island as part of its territory to be seized one day – by force if necessary.
Beijing has ramped up military drills and diplomatic pressure on Taiwan since President Tsai Ing-wen came to power in 2016, as she regards the island as a sovereign nation.
On Thursday, soldiers from two platoons faced off in a simulated battle, firing at each other from houses and sandbag barricades as tanks rolled down a street in a mock-up town complete with signs for pharmacies and beer brands.
Urban warfare has become an increasingly key training subject for the military.
“Any future battle to protect Taiwan will be an urban warfare,” Kiwi Yang, an instructor at Army Infantry School, told reporters, noting most of Taiwan’s 23 million people live in cities.
“The Chinese communist troops’ battle plans will be invading and landing firstly from coastal towns, then the fighting will progress into more populated residential and commercial areas and lastly push into mountainous villages,” he added.
With mountain ranges, changeable weather and limited beach landings, invading Taiwan would be a Herculean challenge for any military.
For decades analysts largely concurred that China simply could not pull it off but Beijing has dramatically closed the gap in recent years.
Sabre-rattling towards Taiwan has increased considerably under President Xi Jinping, China’s most authoritarian leader in a generation unafraid to flex the country’s geopolitical muscle.
Chinese warplanes are making historically high levels of incursions into Taiwan’s air defence zone and fears among Western allies are growing that Beijing could order an invasion, even if they consider it unlikely for now.
Taiwan recorded incursions by around 970 Chinese military aircraft last year, according to a database compiled by AFP, more than double some 380 carried out in 2020.
China has also publicised multiple military drills simulating an invasion of the island.
Last month, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) deployed hundreds of troops and dozens of tanks in a mock street combat to seize Taiwan, according to Chinese state television CCTV.
A team representing the PLA took the city in just under three hours after removing landmines, roadblocks and other obstacles posed by the opposing team, the report said.