Saturday, March 23, 2019 | ePaper

Taiwan announces new-look military drills to counter China

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AP, Taipei :
Taiwan's military on Wednesday announced a series of newly designed large-scale military drills for this year aimed at countering China's renewed threat to use force to gain control over the island.
While Taiwan's armed forces regularly hold such exercises, this year's drills are "being drafted based on newly adopted tactics for defending against a possible Chinese invasion," the official Central News Agency quoted Defense Ministry planning chief Maj. Gen. Yeh Kuo-hui as saying.
China claims sovereignty over the self-governing island democracy, which split from the mainland amid civil war in 1949.
Chinese President Xi Jinping renewed the threat of force in his Jan. 2 message to the island, saying China reserved that right if necessary to counter interference by external forces and what he called an extremely small number of Taiwanese separatists.
Although Xi didn't mention the U.S. by name, Washington is a key supplier of weaponry to the island and is legally bound to respond to threats against Taiwan.
With its 3 million-member armed forces and the world's second largest defense budget of $173 billion, China has the overwhelming military edge over Taiwan. Xi has been ratcheting up the military threat to put pressure on independence-leaning Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen.
Tsai responded to Xi's speech by rejecting demands for unification between the sides, saying, "China must face the fact of the existence of Taiwan."
Taiwan wields a much smaller by technologically sophisticated force that would be relied on to hold off a Chinese assault until outside help arrives.
In recent years, Taiwan's strategy has evolved from defeating a Chinese landing force to repelling an invasion on sea and in the air.
The draft outlaws playing the anthem "in a distorted or disrespectful way, with intent to insult." It also forbids altering the anthem's lyrics and its score. As well as possible jail time, offenders will also face fines of up to HK$50,000 ($6,000).
Patrick Nip, secretary for constitutional and mainland affairs, told reporters the law would "preserve the dignity of the national anthem and promote respect".
Defiant Hong Kong football fans have booed the anthem at matches for years. Fans have also previously turned their backs and displayed Hong Kong independence banners during matches as some activists call for the city to split with the mainland, a notion that infuriates Beijing.
The draft bill cited the difficulty of identifying culprits in a crowd of football supporters as one of the reasons police will be given double the amount of time-one year-to investigate a non-indictable offence.

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