Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen. Photo: Reuters/Jorge Adorno
Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen. Photo: Reuters/Jorge Adorno

Several government agencies in Taiwan that were notified at the last minute of a national-security-themed “blitz drill” were found to have no guidelines on tackling emergencies, nor any idea about what resources were available to them.

That is a rare admission from the office of Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen on the island’s preparedness to stave off attacks should they be mounted by the Chinese military.

These key failings were exposed during a four-day national-security drill conducted last month by Taiwan’s National Security Council to test the government’s overall ability to respond to emergencies, should hostilities break out between mainland China and the self-ruled island.

A senior government official revealed to local papers that Tsai was “not at all impressed” by the apparent ineptitude of a number of government departments, ranging from the Education Ministry to the civil aviation authority, that were caught off guard by the snap drill announced in the wee hours of September 8. The exercise involved some 20 non-military agencies and organs.

Senior officials appeared to be flustered during a mock attack by the People’s Liberation Army, during which they had “no idea what resources were available and where to find them” and failed to establish backup communications with the Defense Ministry to coordinate their resistance and get updates about the situation.

Thus Tsai has asked for more training and improved coordination among government agencies and military units. The drill found recurring problems among government agencies, as most seemed completely unprepared for emergencies.

Cross-departmental and inter-ministerial cooperation clearly needed improvement, especially collaboration among the military, the coast guard, the police force and firefighters and other first-responders, according to the Taipei Times.

Tsai was also unhappy about the lack of communication among various agencies as well as the absence of a “contingency masterplan.” She said even the president could be rendered deaf and blind if all lines were cut at the Presidential Palace.

The exercise, aimed at enhancing cross-departmental and inter-ministerial cooperation on emergency responses, required all government agencies to respond to a plethora of scenarios in which the island’s national security was endangered.

These scenarios included, among others, cyber espionage, power outages, riots, PLA missile attacks, blockage of sea lines of communication, and decapitation attempts.

The national-security exercise was reportedly carried out by three groups: the drill group, consisting of all non-military ministries under the Executive Yuan, the attack group formed by the Taiwanese army to simulate sorties and invasions by an adversary, and the observer group, which evaluated the performance of the other groups.

The drill differed from the annual Han Kuang anti-PLA war game, as it examined non-military agencies’ responses to emergencies.

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