Taiwan sets up elite unit to protect president amid China invasion fears
Threats from Beijing and at home force the island to step up protection of Tsai and key state organs
Taiwan has ratcheted up protection for President Tsai Ing-wen after China staged a military drill late last year that included a mock assault on a full-scale replica of Taiwan’s Presidential Palace.
The exercise, at a training base in Inner Mongolia in August, featured Chinese troops entering streets from the Bo’ai Special Zone in Taipei. News of the drill was revealed by Beijing’s state-owned China Central TV.
Given what appears like aggressive psychological warfare, it is hardly surprising that President Tsai’s security detail has been ramped up – with new recruits from the island’s special duty troops and the purchase of a brand-new bullet- and blast-proof Audi sedan last year.
A new security battalion commenced operation this week to guard the Bo’ai Special Zone in Taipei – a buffer zone in the capital where Tsai lives and works, which includes the Presidential Palace, Executive Yuan and Judicial Yuan, plus numerous departments and key ministries such as Foreign Affairs and National Defense.
Tsai’s office is inside the Presidential Palace, while she normally lives in an official residence nearby also used by her predecessors.
Headed by a female lieutenant, the battalion is mainly tasked with anti-infiltration and “anti-decapitation” tasks. It also has to deal with any emergencies that may occur within the zone at a time when Tsai’s top advisers are increasingly jittery about the president’s security, as well as that of the nation, given the island’s travails with Beijing and Tsai’s tepid approval ratings at home.
Specifically, the battalion will guard against any attempts to eliminate or incapacitate the president, be it an air assault by Chinese paratroopers or vehicle break-ins as seen in past incidents, and respond in concert with marines and Taipei police deployed in the vicinity.
Tsai’s office and the Defense Ministry confirmed the creation of the new battalion but refused to disclose details, citing security concerns.
The Beijing-based Global Times revealed during the Chinese army’s high-profile war-game in August last year that full-scale replicas of Taiwan’s Presidential Palace and thoroughfares and streets of the Bo’ai zone had been built on a tactics training base in Inner Mongolia.
A separate report on Dec 31 by the PLA Daily about a street combat scenario during an exercise held by the Southern Theater Command has renewed speculation in Taiwan that the drill was meant to familiarise soldiers for ground operations in Taipei in the future if a bid is launched to “recapture” the island.