Red warfare, defense pacts and China’s threat

Taiwan’s forces simulate urban battle plans as F-16s scramble in war scenario amid defense cooperation deals

Aachen 1944, Manila 1945, Seoul 1950, and Hue 1968.

According to UNT Press, in those four urban battles across a wide range of conditions, American forces were ultimately successful in capturing each city because of their ability to adapt.

It became a strong suit of the United States military and it is still vital in 21st-century warfare.

On Thursday, soldiers from two Taiwan platoons faced off in a simulated battle. They fired 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, AFP news agency reported.

“Any future battle to protect Taiwan [from an invasion by China’s forces] will be urban warfare,” Kiwi Yang, an instructor at Taiwan’s Army Infantry School, told AFP.

“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 said.

With mountain ranges, changeable weather and limited beach landings, invading Taiwan would be a Herculean challenge, AFP reported.

Major priority

Much worse, if the Americans decided to get involved.

Described by The Economist as “the most dangerous place on Earth,” democratically-ruled Taiwan is considered a renegade province by China. 

There is also unfinished business from China’s Civil War after Chiang Kai-shek’s nationalist forces fled to the island following their defeat by Mao Zedong’s Communist army in 1949. 

Since then, Beijing has made reunification a major priority. But it has only been in the past two decades that China has stepped-up military and political pressure on Taipei.

Last year, the People’s Liberation Army Air Force launched relentless incursions into Taiwan’s air defense identification zone. Taipei considers this “gray zone” warfare designed to wear out Taiwan’s forces and test their responses.

China’s PLA Marines in a beach assault exercise. Photo: chinamil.com.cn

But earlier this week, the island’s air force of US-made F-16 fighter jets screamed into the sky in a drill simulating a war scenario, Reuters news agency reported.

The exercises were part of a three-day drill to show Taiwan’s battle readiness ahead of the Lunar New Year holiday at the end of this month. Meanwhile, across the sea, China’s military carried out beach landings and assault exercises.

In a brief report on its Weibo microblogging account, the official PLA Daily newspaper said the drills had taken place “in recent days” in the southern part of Fujian province.

The action involved “shock” troops, sappers and boat specialists, the Chinese military publication stated. Troops were “divided into multiple waves to grab a beach” head and “perform combat tasks at different stages,” the newspaper pointed out, according to Reuters.

In the face of these growing threats, the US and its allies have strengthened mutual defense cooperation amid mounting concerns about Taiwan and freedom of navigation in the South and East China Seas.

On Thursday, Australia and Japan hailed a new defense agreement as the latest step to bolster security ties against the backdrop of rising Chinese aggression.

Practice missions

The Reciprocal Access Agreement will allow the Australian and Japanese armed forces to work together on defense and humanitarian operations, Reuters reported. It will be a first for Tokyo.

Imagine Japanese F-35s accessing Australian training ranges to practice missions over land, or Australian submarines and warships operating out of Japanese military bases. All of this is likely to happen after virtual discussions between Prime Minister Scott Morrison and his Japanese counterpart Fumio Kishida.

According to RealClearDefense, closer military relations could also mean that troops from Japan’s Self-Defense Forces could hold joint exercises with their Australian allies and the US Marines out of Darwin.

The creation of the AUKUS security pact between Australia, the United Kingdom and the US has made this possible. So has South Korea’s closer engagement with Canberra and the deepening involvement of European countries in the Indo-Pacific.

This loose-based alliance has shown that nations across the world are pushing back against China’s predatory behavior, RealClearDefense reported.

PLA jets continue to launch missions into Taiwan’s air defense corridor. Photo: chinamil.com.cn

Even Germany post-Merkel is ramping up its presence in the region, sending a warship on a Pacific voyage for the first time in 20 years, National Interest said.

Although the ship Bayern, a Brandenburg-class frigate, is not exactly state-of-the-art, its deployment to Asia marks a departure from previous German policy in the region.

Another major move came just hours after talks between Australia and Japan. On Friday, Washington and Tokyo agreed to strengthen their security alliance by countering China’s emerging threats, including hypersonic missiles, the South China Morning Post reported.

Still, over the weekend, Chinese President Xi Jinping reiterated a vow to “reunify” Taiwan using his patented “Wolf Warrior” tactics, a reckless foreign policy that has done the ruling Communist Party immense damage globally.

Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen responded by saying the island nation will not bow to China’s pressure. It is also no secret that the US has doubled its unofficial military presence in Taiwan over the past year.

Strong signal

In turn, this has led to speculation that the recent drills by Taiwan forces may have a guiding hand, Voice Of America reported.

Active-duty deployments now include 29 US Marines, as well as two service members from the Army, three from the Navy and five from the Air Force, according to the Pentagon’s Defense Manpower Data Center.

While the Pentagon has not disclosed the purpose of the military personnel, at the very least it is sending a strong signal to China, according to  Kitsch Liao, a military and cyber affairs consultant for DoubleThink Lab, a Taiwan-based research organization.

“The escalation is subtle but unmistakable,” he told VOA.

China previously offered Taiwan a “One Country, Two Systems” governance model – identical to the one in Hong Kong. But the proposal is “overwhelmingly unpopular” on the island, CNBC reported.

And so it goes on, another day, another drill, and one step closer to a potential flashpoint issue.

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