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Taiwan's military to set up new combatant command in 2026: Source

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The Navy's fast attack boats. CNA photo

Taipei, April 14 (CNA) Taiwan's military is scheduled to establish a new combatant command in 2026, tasked with defending Taiwan's territorial waters extending 24 nautical miles from the country's shoreline, a source familiar with the matter told CNA on Sunday.

The unnamed source said the new command, listed under the Naval Command Headquarters, will be headed by a vice admiral and bring together existing fast attack boat and anti-ship missile groups, along with the Naval Maritime Surveillance & Reconnaissance Command.

It could be officially launched as early as 2026, but more details are being discussed and no final timetable has been announced, the source added.

According to international maritime rules, each coastal state may claim a territorial sea that extends seaward up to 12 nautical miles from its shorelines.

A nation's contiguous zone, meanwhile, is an area that is adjacent to the territorial sea and extends to a maximum distance of 24 nautical miles from the coast.

According to the Naval Command Headquarters, the littoral combatant command will be responsible for integrating maritime surveillance, strike, and communication capabilities and coastal mobile units.

The plan is still under discussion and evaluation, the Navy said in a written response to CNA.

Asked to comment on the proposed littoral combatant command, three defense scholars CNA interviewed agreed the proposal would be beneficial to the military's ongoing reform and overall defense.

Su Tzu-yun (蘇紫雲), a research fellow at Taiwan's state-run Institute for National Defense and Security Research, said the newly proposed command, once approved, will be responsible for the defense of Taiwan within 24 nautical miles from its coastline.

This means it will have a separate job from that of the Naval Fleet Command, which will likely be responsible for defending seas around Taiwan but farther away from its shoreline in the future.

He applauded what he called the structural reform of the Navy.

Echoing Su, defense scholar and retired Navy Captain Jiang Hsin-biao (江炘杓) said that once established, the new command will be responsible for coastal defense using smaller and lighter missile boats and corvettes, as well as coastal anti-ship missiles.

The Navy's main larger combat vessels will be tasked with defending the seas around Taiwan, albeit farther away from its coastline, in the future, he said.

This means that the new command will shoulder the responsibility of the main combat ships and Naval Fleet Command in jointly defending the country, he added.

However, acknowledging the plan to set up a littoral combatant command, Chieh Chung (揭仲), a researcher at the Taipei-based Association of Strategic Foresight, cautioned that currently many other combat commands in other military branches, including the Air Force and Army, are also responsible for defending areas within 24 nautical miles of Taiwan's coastline.

With another new command forming, it could further complicate the command structure in the nation's armed forces in the event of war, Chieh said.

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