Taiwan to test defences with live-fire drill in strait
Agence France-Presse in Taipei
Taiwan yesterday unveiled plans for its biggest live-fire military exercise since 2008, aimed at reviewing the island's defence capability against a simulated mainland invasion.
The operation will take place on April 17 on the Penghu Islands in the middle of the Taiwan Strait.
The archipelago is used to control major shipping lanes linking the South China Sea and East China Sea.
The main purpose of the drill is to review the defence capability of the troops stationed in Penghu," Major General Tseng Fu-hsing said.
President Ma Ying-jeou's Beijing-friendly administration has not held any major live-fire exercises since he came to power in 2008 on a platform of increasing cross-strait trade and tourism links, heralding a detente between the two sides.
Ma was re-elected in January of last year for a second four-year term, and his government is now trying to boost its low popularity in the face of calls to stand up to Beijing, as well as continuing its policy of engagement.
During the operation, named Han Kuang 29 (Han Glory), the military would test the Ray Ting 2000 or Thunder 2000, a locally developed multiple-launch rocket system designed to prevent the enemy from making an amphibious landing, Tseng said.
The drill was decided upon to quell public fears over a possible attack, he added.
Beijing still considers Taiwan part of its territory and has vowed to take it back even if it means war, and even though the island has governed itself since splitting from the mainland in 1949 at the end of a civil war.
The announcement of the drill came a day after mainland media reported that Beijing had agreed to buy two dozen Su-35 fighter jets and four Lada-class submarines from Russia, in its first large-scale weapons technology purchases from Moscow in a decade.
In response to the reports, Defence Ministry spokesman David Lo said Taiwan was unlikely to conduct an arms race against the mainland, which is involved in a number of territorial disputes with its neighbours.
But he pledged that Taiwan's military would do everything it could to "deter the enemy from easily using force" against the island, including boosting training and morale.