PENGHU’ERCUN, Taiwan: Taiwan forces simulated an invasion by China Thursday as part of live-fire war games against a backdrop of rising tensions with Beijing.
The annual drills are Taiwan’s biggest military exercise and mocked up a scenario in which Chinese troops launched an amphibious assault.
They took place on the outlying Penghu Islands, which sit in the strait that separates Taiwan from China.
The defense ministry has warned of a rising military threat from China, which still sees self-ruling Taiwan as part of its territory to be reunified, by force if necessary.
Taiwan’s military is boosting its firepower to counteract the risk, including launching its first ever home-grown submarine project and building a new generation of jet trainers.
President Tsai Ing-wen presided over the drills and emphasized the importance of building up Taiwan’s indigenous defense industry.
“When Taiwan shows its determination to take the road of defensive autonomy, it is putting on a display to the world of our determination to protect our home and land,” she said at a military base in Penghu after overseeing the exercise.
As part of the drills, attack helicopters fired missiles and jet fighters including eight F-16s dropped bombs in the waters south of the archipelago to repel the enemy.
Rocket artillery and tanks also fired rounds as far as 18 meters from the coast. The live-fire was not in the direction of China.
The defense ministry has said there is a growing risk of invasion from Chinese forces as relations with Beijing-sceptic Tsai deteriorate.
China does not trust her traditionally pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party and has cut off all official communication with Taipei.
Beijing has also sought to isolate the island diplomatically as Tsai refuses to acknowledge both sides belong to “one China”—unlike her China-friendly predecessor Ma Ying-jeou.
Taiwan expressed outrage earlier this month when it was refused a meeting to the World Health Organization’s annual assembly under pressure from China.
Thursday’s war games were part of an annual week-long exercise called “Han Kuang” (Han Glory) aimed at measuring how effectively Taiwan forces could deal with a China attack.
Taiwan’s defense minister Feng Shih-kuan confirmed in March that China is aiming advanced medium-range ballistic missiles at the island.
China has also increased drills in the Western Pacific and sent its sole aircraft carrier through the TaiwanStrait in January, moves Feng said were designed to pressure Taiwan “to follow its plans in the development of cross-strait relations.”