Taiwan trains reservists amid Ukraine concerns

Hundreds of Taiwan’s army reservists took part in exercises Monday, after the president called for the island’s “unity”, amid fears Beijing could retake the island by force after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

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In the past year, Taiwan stepped up training of reservists amid rising tensions between Beijing and Taipei.

China claims the autonomous, democratic island as part of its territory and has vowed to take it back one day by force if necessary.

About 400 reservists took part in Monday’s shooting exercises as part of a program to prepare them for combat. Their training, which began in early March, simulates beach defense near the capital, Taipei.

This training takes place while Taipei closely watches Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

On Saturday, President Tsai Ing-wen stressed to these reservists the need to unite the island to ensure its defense.

“The situation in Ukraine proves once again that the protection of the country, as well as international solidarity and assistance, depends on the unity of the people,” she said, wearing a military uniform and a flak jacket.

General Chen Chung-chi, commander of the Sixth Command of the Taiwanese Army, emphasized the importance of reserve forces as well as a professional army.

“The security of the whole country does not depend only on the soldiers,” he told AFP on Monday.

He continued, “In Ukraine, we see soldiers on the battlefield and some men (…) going into battle after they brought their wives and children to safety.” “Military power is limited, but the power of the people is unlimited.”

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One of the reservists, Shi Hui Bin, explained that this training allows him to stay prepared and keep up with current military tactics.

“When the time comes, I’ll know what to do,” he told reporters after a shooting practice session.

Chinese President Xi Jinping has taken a significantly more aggressive approach toward Taipei since the 2016 election of President Tsai Ing-wen, who considers Taiwan a truly sovereign country and not part of “one China.”

Moscow is siding with Beijing, saying that Taiwan is an “inseparable part” of China.

Last year, Chinese military aircraft made a record number of incursions into the Taiwan Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ).

On Monday, the Taiwan Ministry of National Defense announced the incursion of 13 Chinese military aircraft, including 12 fighters, into the air defense zone, the highest number since the beginning of the month.

56 Chinese fighter jets entered the region on October 4, the highest number in a single day, according to data compiled by AFP.

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