Taiwan has carried out live-fire military drills just miles away from mainland China, as the island remains on high alert following Russia’s attack on Ukraine. The US and Japan matched Taipei with their own combat exercises near Mt. Fiji this week, also focused on Beijing.
The drills were held Wednesday on Dongyin Island – Taiwan’s northernmost territory located about 30 miles off the mainland – with troops firing artillery shells and machine guns at targets in the ocean. The exercise aimed to prepare soldiers to repel an amphibious assault by Chinese forces, with Taipei recently voicing concerns that Beijing will attempt to seize one of its smaller islands as the world is focused on fighting in Ukraine.
While Taiwan raised its alert level just before Russia invaded its neighbor, Beijing insists it has no plans for a similar attack, arguing that the island is “not Ukraine” while rejecting any comparison. China considers Taiwan part of its sovereign territory, though it has long been self-governed and formally refers to itself as the Republic of China.
However, as noted by foreign policy commentator Ted Galen Carpenter, China is growing impatient with “Taipei’s increasingly blunt rejection of unification with the mainland” and continued ties with the United States, stepping up its own military presence near the island in a series of naval exercises in recent months – including some alongside Russian forces.
Those moves come as the US and local allies carry out regular war games and shows of force in the region. On Tuesday, the American and Japanese militaries kicked off three weeks of joint airborne combat drills near Mt. Fuji, with 400 Japanese soldiers joining 600 US Marines on the island of Okinawa.
“We are committed to securing the peace and stability in the region through Japan-US joint responses. Any potential adversary will see this as our actual capability, not just words,” said Col. Masashi Hiraki, who leads Japan’s First Amphibious Rapid Deployment Regiment.
The Joe Biden administration is spending billions to build up its military capabilities in the Indo-Pacific and has identified China as America’s top competitor in the coming decades. In addition to constant drills and near-monthly transits of the Taiwan Strait by US warships, Biden continues to proclaim that the United States has a duty to come to the island’s defense in the event of attack by the mainland – despite contradictory statements from other White House officials that the US policy of “strategic ambiguity” remains unchanged.