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Taiwan to More Than Double Military Police
Move comes as China’s PLA study battles for Baghdad, Fallujah, Aleppo and Mosul
By: Jens Kastner
Taiwan’s Ministry of National Defense intends to expand the military police from the current 5,000-plus to 11,000 to counter the threat posed by Chinese “decapitation” strikes and pro-mainland gangsters, guard critical infrastructure and match a planned expansion of the armed forces, according to multiple Taiwanese media outlets.
The reports cited Su Ziyun, senior official of the government’s Institute for National Defense and Security Research in Taipei, as applauding the move in the face of China’s strengthening amphibious combat capability and the high likelihood that China’s fifth column would conduct sabotage activities in Taiwan during wartime. It is believed that several hundred Taiwanese pro-China gangsters on the island would engage in urban warfare to help the PLA succeed in an invasion.
Su furthermore said that drawing on the experience of the Ukrainian war, the PLA will have closely studied how to take action to destroy oil, electricity, water, and information communication systems. According to Su, much of the threat is associated with the strengthening capability of PLA helicopters that would be bringing in soldiers and equipment.
The marked expansion of Taiwan’s is to be accompanied by purchases of Kestrel anti-armor rockets and man-portable infrared homing surface-to-air missile, with these two weapons systems becoming the standard systems for the military police forces.
“The fifth column that lurks in every corner of society in normal times will definitely take advantage of the opportunity to destroy it in wartime,” Su was quoted as saying. “The national military must improve the overall protection capabilities of key infrastructures, even including the concerns of all parties, such as TSMC and other parts of the semiconductor supply chain.”
The announcement of military police expansion plans follows the US-based defense think tank RAND in late-2022 publishing the book “Crossing the Strait: China’s Military Prepares for War with Taiwan.”
Sale Lilly, a senior policy analyst at RAND, in a chapter called “‘Killing Rats in a Porcelain Shop’: PLA Urban Warfare in a Taiwan Campaign” analyzes the frequency of PLA publications on urban warfare over time, which offers clues as to when the Chinese military has paid special attention to this topic. Two apparent spikes in attention occurred in 2004–2005 and 2016–2019, which, Lilly says, reflected increased PLA attention to US operations in the Middle East and had little to do with developments across the Taiwan Strait. The first spike, in 2004–2005, can be attributed to PLA case studies of US urban warfare experience in the early stages of the Iraq War, in particular, the battle of Baghdad and the first and second battles for Fallujah. The second spike, in 2016–2019, reflects a combination of Chinese observations of US urban warfare during the multiyear battle of Aleppo in Syria and the battle for Mosul in Iraq.
“While there are relatively few explicit mentions of a Taiwan urban warfare scenario in PLA sources, evidence suggests this scenario has influenced recent Military Operations on Urban Terrain [MOUT] training,” Lilly writes. “Since at least 2009, the PLA has used dedicated MOUT spaces in at least three locations: the main MOUT facility within the greater Zhurihe Training Base in Inner Mongolia, which has been used since 2009; a potential pilot or legacy facility at Yanshan that may still be available for smaller scale MOUT exercises in mountainous terrains; and, perhaps most relevant for a Taiwan scenario, a mock city complete with a library, coffee shop, and power plant located at a certain training field in Northern Jiangsu.”
Wendell Minnick, a long-term Taipei-based defense expert, told Asia Sentinel that the MP command would be Taipei’s only military protection from special operation forces infiltrating the city to cause chaos. According to Minnick, the actual current number of military police is only 3,000, not 5,000 as the newspapers claim, with these units only protecting the presidential area.
“In the past, the MPs numbered 20,000, with the drop to 3,000 being part of their ‘military modernization’ plan, which also eliminated the military police court system and turned it over to the civilian courts who are unfamiliar with military code of conduct,” Minnick said. “I have been a strong advocate of removing the parking lots in front of the Presidential Building that would serve as helicopter offloading of special operations forces. There is also the soccer field behind the First Girls School across the street, and something has to be done with the massive open area at Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall that could accommodate at least four Z-8F/AC313 [helicopters] capable of carrying 30 commandoes,” Minnick wrote in his China In Arms newsletter.