By Ben Blanchard
TAIPEI (Reuters) -China is looking at the experience of the war in Ukraine to develop "hybrid warfare" strategies against Taiwan including using drones and psychological pressure, a senior Taiwanese security official said on Wednesday.
Taiwan has been carefully studying the lessons of the Ukraine war to inform how it may react should China, which views the democratically ruled island as its own territory, ever makes good on threats to use force to enforce its sovereignty claim.
China mounted military exercises around Taiwan in August to express its anger at a visit to Taipei by U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and it has maintained its military activities since then, though at a scaled-back pace.
Speaking in parliament, Taiwan's National Security Bureau Director-General Chen Ming-tong said China was also paying attention to what was happening in Ukraine.
"This year, the communist military has borrowed from the experience of the Russia-Ukraine war to develop 'hybrid warfare' against Taiwan and strengthen its combat training and preparation against strong enemies," he told lawmakers.
After China's August drills, it expanded its "grey zone" and hybrid activities against Taiwan, especially with the use of drones that have flown both near Taiwan-controlled islands off China's coast and into Taiwan's air defence identification zone, Chen said.
Taiwan says China's "grey-zone" warfare campaign involves irregular tactics to exhaust a foe without resorting to open combat, like frequently flying into Taiwan's air defence zone and forcing Taiwan's air force to scramble.
China has released images of Taiwan's military online to "slander" it and attack the government, he said, referring to video that circulated on Chinese social media in August of Taiwanese soldiers on offshore islands taken by drones.
These activities "highlight that the Chinese communists have increased their cognitive warfare, grey zone activities and other hybrid methods, which have constituted a new form of threat to national security", Chen added.
China's Taiwan Affairs Office did not immediately respond to a request for comment. China has blamed Taiwan for the increase in tensions, saying it is "colluding" with foreign forces against Beijing to promote the island's formal independence.
Taiwan is bolstering its defences in the face of the stepped up China activity, and navy commander Chiang Cheng-kuo said that includes a new generation of destroyer given that its fleet of 26 main warships was on average 20 to 30 years old.
"We're planning for the capital ships, but the tonnage is yet to be decided," he told the same parliament session.
Chen said China's military threats had coalesced support from the United States and its allies for Taiwan to ensure what happened to Ukraine would not be repeated across the Taiwan Strait.
This will enhance Taiwan's ability to deal with China and deter "their plots to attack Taiwan", he said.
Russia calls its invasion of Ukraine a "special military operation".
(Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Additional reporting by Roger Tung; Editing by Robert Birsel)