Taiwan holds drill amid tensions


Maintenance move: Soldiers firing 155mm howitzers during the annual live fire military exercise in Pingtung county. — Reuters

Taipei: Taiwan’s army held another live-fire drill after Beijing ended its largest-ever military exercises around the island and repeated threats to bring the self-ruled democracy under its control.

Beijing has raged at a trip to Taiwan last week by US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi – the highest-ranking elected American official to visit in decades – staging days of air and sea drills that raised tensions to their highest level in years.

Taiwan has accused China of using the Pelosi visit as an excuse to kickstart drills that would allow it to rehearse for an invasion.

Lou Woei-jye, spokesperson for Taiwan’s Eighth Army Corps, said its forces fired howitzers and target flares as part of the defensive drill yesterday.

The exercise in Taiwan’s southernmost county Pingtung began at 8.30am and lasted about an hour, he said.

Artillery tucked in from the coast was lined up side by side, with armed soldiers in units firing the howitzers out to sea one after the other, a live stream showed.

Taiwan held a similar drill on Tuesday in Pingtung.

Both involved hundreds of troops, the military said.

The military has played down the exercises’ significance, saying they were already scheduled and were not in response to China’s war games.

“We have two goals for the drills, the first is to certify the proper condition of the artillery and their maintenance condition and the second is to confirm the results of last year,” Lou said, referring to annual drills.

Taiwan routinely stages military drills simulating defence against a Chinese invasion.

The latest exercise came after China’s military indicated its own drills had come to an end on Wednesday, saying its forces “successfully completed various tasks” in the Taiwan Strait while vowing to continue patrolling its waters.

But in the same announcement, China said that it would “continue to carry out military training and prepare for war”.

In a white paper published the same day, China’s Taiwan Affairs Office said Beijing would “not renounce the use of force” against its neighbour and reserved “the option of taking all necessary measures”.

“We are ready to create vast space for peaceful reunification, but we will leave no room for separatist activities in any form,” it said in the paper.

China last issued a white paper on Taiwan in 2000.

Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council, the island’s top policymaking body on China, rejected the paper and said the document was “full of lies that are ‘wishful thinking and disregarding the facts’”.

Taiwan’s foreign ministry yesterday joined the council in rebuffing the “one country, two systems” model that Beijing has proposed for the island. — AFP

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