TAIPEI (Reuters) – Taiwan’s armed forces carried out live fire drills on its west coast on Thursday practicing “enemy annihilation on the shore,” ahead of its main annual exercises later this month and as China steps up military activities near the island it claims.
Taiwan has complained in recent months of repeated Chinese air force patrols near it, in some cases crossing into Taiwan-controlled airspace. In April, a Chinese naval flotilla led by the country’s first aircraft carrier passed near Taiwan.
China claims the democratic island as its own territory, and has never renounced the use of force to bring it under Beijing’s control. Taiwan has shown no interest in being run by China.
The drills, in a coastal area facing the sensitive Taiwan Strait, simulated fending off an attempted landing by enemy forces, Taiwan’s Defense Ministry said.
They involved Taiwan’s most modern fighter jet the F-16V, Apache attack helicopters, tanks and artillery, which fired live rounds, the ministry added, showing pictures of plumes of water in the sea where ordinance had hit their targets.
The drills were aimed at improving the military’s effectiveness at “enemy annihilation on the shore” and to “prevail along the coastline” to stop an enemy invasion, it said.
Taiwan later this month holds its main annual Han Kuang military exercise, which was postponed from earlier this year due to the new coronavirus.
Taiwan’s military is well-trained and well-equipped, mostly with U.S.-made weapons, and President Tsai Ing-wen has made boosting the island’s defenses a top priority since she first won office in 2016.
However Taiwan faces an increasingly formidable and far larger Chinese military, which has been undergoing its own modernization program, adding stealth fighters, aircraft carriers and anti-satellite missiles.
(Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Giles Elgood)