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29 Apr, 2023 20:30

US troops drill for Taiwan war – media

Army special forces have for the first time reportedly practiced defending against a Chinese attack on the self-governing island
US troops drill for Taiwan war – media

The US Army Special Operations Command (USASOC) has reportedly carried out drills simulating its response to a Chinese seizure of Taiwan for the first time, reflecting rising concern in Washington that Beijing may try to seize control of the self-governing island by force.

The Taiwan scenario was played out as part of the USAOC’s annual capabilities exercise, known as CAPEX, at North Carolina’s Fort Bragg, Military.com reported on Saturday. Troops practiced being inserted into Taiwan to help defend against a Chinese offensive, using a concrete mock-up on the base to simulate the environment in which they would fight the People’s Republic of China (PRC).

“The PRC, in accordance with our national defense strategy, is our true pacing challenge out there,” Lieutenant General Jonathan Braga, commander of USASOC, said in a speech before the exercise on Thursday. “Ultimately, what we’re trying to do is prevent World War III. That’s our job.”

The drills included firing recoilless rifles, breaching tunnels and operating Switchblade drones, the media outlet said. The special forces used some of the same weaponry and tactics employed during Washington’s so-called War on Terror, along with “other tools reflecting a seismic shift for the command as it prepares for potential conflict against major military rivals.”

It's unusual for USASOC to identify the opposition force so directly during APEX, “given the military’s hesitancy to overtly suggest conflict,” according to Military.com.

US-China relations have deteriorated in the past year amid Beijing’s refusal to join in a Western sanctions campaign against Russia over the Ukraine crisis. Chinese officials have accused US leaders of emboldening separatists in Taiwan, such as when then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi traveled to Taipei last August. China responded by breaking off defense and climate ties with Washington and launching massive military drills in the Taiwan Strait.

The US government recognizes, without endorsing, China’s claim to sovereignty over Taiwan. For decades, Washington has maintained a policy of “strategic ambiguity,” keeping Beijing and Taipei guessing as to whether, and to what extent, the US military would intervene if China invaded Taiwan. However, President Joe Biden has repeatedly hinted that Washington would come to Taiwan’s aid militarily in the event of a Chinese offensive.

Washington think tanks have conducted wargaming exercises in recent months to simulate how a war over Taiwan might play out. One such study was done for a congressional committee by the Center for New American Security, which found earlier this month that US forces would be unable to resupply Taiwan with weapons and equipment once a Chinese offensive began. An exercise done by the Center for Strategic and International Studies found that although US and Japanese forces would be able to successfully repel Beijing’s offensive, they would lose dozens of warships, hundreds of planes, and thousands of troops.