The Taiwanese military has reassured the people of the self-ruled island that it is constantly improving its combat readiness and “stands ready to fight”.

The unequivocal message from Taiwan’s military forces comes as a response to Chinese President Xi Jinping once again stating his resolve to recapture Taiwan, even by use of force.

In a televised January 2 speech to mark the 40th anniversary of a de facto ceasefire in the Taiwan Strait, Xi told the nation: “We make no promise to renounce the use of force and reserve the option of taking all necessary means to serve the end [of China’s reunification].”

Xi also addressed a plenary meeting attended by the People’s Liberation Army’s top commanders last week, during which he explicitly told the army to be prepared for combat and conflict at any time.

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Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen dons military garb to inspect troops during a drill in 2018. Photo: Handout
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Chinese President Xi Jinping vowed to realize China’s reunification during a key speech in early January. Photo: Twitter via AP

Taiwan’s defense ministry has since made public its packed schedule of drills for 2019. It includes a month-long combat readiness exercise in the first quarter, its annual anti-Chinese invasion exercise in the second quarter, a massive amphibious warfare operation in the third quarter and an anti-circumnavigation and blockade drill by its air force in the latter part of the year.

A lieutenant general overseeing operations and planning told the island’s Central News Agency that the wide-ranging drills, big and small, were intended to incorporate and test new tactics and contingency plans updated in response to China’s military buildup.

Taiwan’s decades-long priority to resist beach sorties by the PLA has also been replaced by a more holistic strategy to protect the outer perimeters of the island’s territorial waters and airspace. The new approach resulted from a comprehensive defense review at the behest of Tsai Ing-wen soon after she took office in May 2016.

Taiwanese troops will fire the opening salvos and deploy AH-64E Apache attack helicopters and Hellfire missiles in the first live-fire war game of the year on January 17, as the defense forces simulate a PLA invasion via the city of Taichung in central Taiwan.

Read more: Why a China invasion of Taiwan would fail