The Taiwan Army conducted live fire drills in central Taichung on Thursday, as part of a massive military exercise against the backdrop of rising tensions with China in the strait and in the South China Sea.
President Tsai Ing-wen is expected to witness the exercise, which is based on a scenario of invasion by the Chinese military. The five-day war match will end on Friday.
Han Kuang’s annual military training was postponed from the beginning of this year due to the coronavirus pandemic. Since then, Taiwan has succeeded in curbing the spread of the disease and declares that the island is free of viruses.
On Wednesday, a torpedo was immediately fired from a Taiwanese Navy submarine, the first time in 13 years the weapon was used during annual training.
The Taiwan-backed Central News Agency (CNA) reports that “heavyweight” surface torpedoes and underwater targets are fired from electric submarines and hit their targets.
The US rejects Chinese claims in the South China Sea that have angered Beijing
The last time the Taiwan Navy submarine fired live torpedoes during its annual military training was in 2007.
Annual exercises, which involve all branches of the military and Taiwan reserve forces, have been held since the early 1980s to test Taiwan’s combat readiness in the event of an attack by China.
During training on Wednesday, the military reported that two Chinese reconnaissance vessels were seen off the east coast of Taiwan, according to CNA.
The report said that the Taiwan Navy warships were immediately sent “to monitor and prevent” two ships, which “eventually sailed away”.
The annual exercise was carried out when Taiwan accused Chinese military planes of “frequent attacks” into the island’s air defense zone over the past few months.
In April, the Chinese fleet led by the country’s first aircraft carrier passed near Taiwan.
China claims the island of democracy as its own territory, and has never abandoned the use of force to bring it under Beijing’s control. Taiwan shows no interest in being run by China.
In May, Beijing threatened to “forcefully destroy” Taiwan if steps were taken for independence.
The Chinese Navy will hold live fire drills in the Taiwan Strait
The Taiwan military is well-trained and well-equipped, mostly with US-made weapons, and President Tsai has made increasing the island’s defense a priority since he first won a post in 2016. He was re-elected by a landslide in January.
However, Taiwan faces an increasingly formidable and far greater Chinese military, which has gone through its own modernization program, adding stealth warplanes, aircraft carriers and anti-satellite missiles.
These exercises also took place at a time when tensions were rising between China and the United States in the South China Sea.
The US currently has two warships, USS Nimitz and USS Ronald Reagan, sailing in disputed regional waters about freedom of navigation operations.
On Monday, the US announced that it was rejecting China’s territorial claims in the South China Sea, drawing an angry response from Beijing, which said Washington was trying to inflame tensions in disputed waters.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that the world “will not allow Beijing to treat the South China Sea as its maritime kingdom”.
Al Jazeera and the news agency
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