TAIPEI (AFP) – Taiwan started a computerised military drill on Monday, set against an imagined scenario in which China invades the island in 2017.
The five-day exercise is part of the island's biggest annual military manoeuvre which is this year codenamed 'Han Kuang 29' (Han Glory 29), officials at the defence ministry said Monday.
The drill simulates a surprise attack by the Chinese in 2017, followed by a large-scale invasion, the ministry said, without explaining why the scenario is being staged in that particular year.
But analysts said the time-frame was reasonable, given China's continued military development and its territorial disputes with neighbouring countries.
"Looking ahead, we can expect China to put into service -- to name just a few -- its first carrier battle group, stealth planes and Type 081 amphibious assault ships," Kevin Cheng, editor-in-chief of the Taipei-based Asia-Pacific Defense Magazine, told AFP.
"China's landing capabilities would be significantly lifted once its forces are armed with the amphibious assault ships, designed to carry transport, anti-submarine and attack helicopters," he said.
The amphibious assault ships could be used in its disputes in the East China Sea and the South China Sea, Cheng added.
He also warned of the threat from China's deployment of more than 1,500 ballistic and cruise missiles targeting Taiwan, as their accuracy has been enhanced.
Tensions across the Taiwan Strait have eased since Ma Ying-jeou's China-friendly administration came to power in 2008 on a platform of beefing up trade and tourism links. He was re-elected in January 2012.
But Beijing has still not ruled out the use of force against the island should it declare independence, even though Taiwan has ruled itself for more than six decades since their split in 1949 at the end of a civil war.
"Over the past few years, ties across the Strait have improved and civil exchanges have been on the rise, but military threat from the mainland has not accordingly diminished," Taiwanese army major-general Tseng Fu-hsin told reporters last week.
The People's Liberation Army launched ballistic missiles into waters near Taiwan during a series of live-fire drills in 1995 and 1996, aiming to deter the Taiwanese from voting for Lee Teng-hui, the independence-minded president then seeking another four-year term.
China halted its sabre-rattling only after the United States sent two aircraft carrier battle groups to waters near the island.