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August 24, 2017

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What it means to have a Marine battalion in Taipei

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- In an unprecedented move, the infantry battalion of the New Taipei-based 66th Marine Brigade has been assigned to the Political Warfare Cadres Academy at Fu Hsing Kang (復興崗) in Beitou District.

There are already individual Marines stationed across Taipei, but this is the first time an entire battalion has been sent to a post in the city.

The news was first carried by a military-run newspaper this Tuesday before the Ministry of National Defense (MND) confirmed it later that day.

Previously, Taiwan's Military Police had been the only military unit tasked with security in Taipei, including the R.O.C. president's protection and counterterrorism operations. Military police were also responsible for guarding the major traffic arteries of the city. Before the deployment of the battalion, Military Police's 239th Battalion in Taipei's Dazhi neighborhood was the top combat unit for counterattacks in the case of an invasion of the capital.

Why has it now become necessary to deploy an entire unit of Marines to Taipei, and why was it assigned to Fu Hsing Kang?

Purely Defensive?

A military source told the Chinese-language United Evening News that the move was ostensibly supposed to be a precaution against a possible Chinese invasion of the capital.

The campus of Fu Hsing Kang is situated directly opposite the Guandu (關渡) plain, which is particularly vulnerable to becoming a landing base for Chinese invaders.

During Han Kuang Exercises — Taiwan's most important annual war games involving all branches of the military — the plain is often used as the landing ground for simulated Chinese forces.

The unnamed military source said that installing a battalion of the elite R.O.C. Marines at Fu Hsing Kang was important for safeguarding the security of Taipei and for stopping the People's Liberation Army before it advances into the city center.

A lawmaker suggested that Defense Minister Feng Shih-Kuan's (馮世寬) decision to send Marines to protect Taipei and most importantly President Tsai Ing-wen was also intended to signal the military's allegiance to the president following a transfer of power from the Kuomintang (KMT) to Democratic Progressive Party.

KMT lawmaker Johnny Chiang (江啟臣) said Feng had been making many moves to show his and the R.O.C. Armed Forces' allegiance to Tsai, including beefing up the president's security.

We don't know whether presidential security has been tightened in response to heightening cross-strait tensions.

But we do know that in mid-February, the military conducted a helicopter emergency landing drill at the Ministry of National Defense's headquarters in Taipei for the first time.

The drill tested the emergency evacuation and escape protocols in place to ensure the president's safety in the event of a national crisis. The R.O.C. president would be taken to a safe house onboard a UH-60M Black Hawk, according to the plan.

A Slap in Ko's Face

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