Defence drills being held


Live-fire drill: Soldiers firing the 155-inch howitzers in the Pingtung county. — AFP

TAIWAN held an artillery drill yesterday simulating defence against an attack as its top diplomat accused Beijing of preparing to invade the island after days of massive Chinese war games.

China launched its largest-ever air and sea exercises around Taiwan last week in a furious response to a visit by US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the highest-ranking American official to visit the self-ruled island in decades.

Taiwan lives under the constant threat of invasion by China, which views its neighbour as part of Chinese territory to be seized one day, by force if necessary.

“China has used the drills in its military playbook to prepare for the invasion of Taiwan,” Foreign Minister Joseph Wu told a press conference, accusing Beijing of using Pelosi’s visit as a pretext for military action.

“China’s real intention is to alter the status quo in the Taiwan Strait and entire region,” he said.

The Chinese military said its Taiwan drills continued yesterday and involved air and sea units.

The Eastern Theater command of the People’s Liberation Army said in a statement that it was conducting training exercises around the island, “focusing on joint blockade and joint support operations.”

Taipei’s drill started in the southern county of Pingtung shortly after 0040 GMT with the firing of target flares and artillery, ending just under an hour later at 0130 GMT, said Lou Woei-jye, spokesman for Taiwan’s Eighth Army Corps.

Soldiers fired from howitzers tucked into the coast, hidden from view of the road that leads to popular beach destination Kenting.

The drills, which will also take place tomorrow, included the deployment of hundreds of troops and about 40 howitzers, the army said.

On Monday, Lou said the drills had been scheduled previously and were not in response to China’s exercises.

The island routinely stages military drills simulating defence against a Chinese invasion, and last month practised repelling attacks from the sea in a “joint interception operation” as part of its largest annual exercises.

The anti-landing exercise took place after China extended its own joint sea and air drills around Taiwan on Monday, but Washington said it did not expect an escalation from Beijing. — AFP

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