MELBOURNE, Australia — Taiwan will reorganize its Army’s command structure to emphasize joint operations between its services and give regional commanders more operational flexibility in the event of a conflict, the country’s defense minister told lawmakers.

The reorganization will see the various corps and defense commands of the Taiwanese Army renamed as distinct “combat theater commands,” Chiu Kuo-cheng reported to the self-governing island’s parliament on May 10.

The Ministry of National Defense confirmed that the Army’s Penghu, Huadong, Sixth, Eighth and Tenth Army corps will be renamed the first to fifth combat theater commands responsible for the Penghu islands west of Taiwan and the areas of eastern, northern, southern and central Taiwan, respectively.

Chiu added that the leaders of each combat theater command will be responsible for coordinating the forces of each of Taiwan’s armed services in each region, in effect forming joint chiefs of staff to enhance interoperability and coordinate operations during conflict or peacetime operations, such as disaster relief.

Although each of the current Army corps are commanded by Army generals, Chiu left open the possibility that the new theater commands could be led by officers drawn from other services.

This possibility was welcomed by experts speaking to Radio Free Asia’s Chinese-language coverage of the announcement. The director of Taiwan’s Institute for National Defense and Security Research, Su Tzu-yun, suggested that the second theater command in eastern Taiwan facing the Pacific Ocean and Taiwan’s outlying islands could be led by Air Force or Navy commanders due to the principal domains of that area.

He added that the new decentralized command structure would also potentially improve survivability of Taiwanese forces during a conflict by allowing theater commanders more latitude to act in the event that communications are jammed or disabled, impairing command and control.

The announcement also ties into Taiwan’s Overall Defense Concept, which focuses on developing the nation’s asymmetric defense capabilities and seeks to improve the ability to preserve its forces against China’s numerically superior and increasingly technologically advanced military. China sees Taiwan as a rogue province and has vowed to reincorporate the island into its territory, including by force if necessary.

It is unclear how the reorganization will affect the Taiwanese Army’s Kinmen and Matsu defense commands, which are responsible for protecting Taiwan’s front-line islands off the coast of mainland China.

It is also unclear whether the Army’s aviation and special operations command, which are currently independent of the various Army corps, will retain its current status or fall under the purview of another theater command following the restructure.

The reorganization is planned to come into effect Jan. 1, 2022.

Mike Yeo is the Asia correspondent for Defense News.

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