Taiwan stages live-fire military drills amid cross-strait row

Island’s military kicks off five days of exercises to repel a simulated attack by the PLA

PUBLISHED : Monday, 22 May, 2017, 6:44pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 23 May, 2017, 12:51am

Taiwan kicked off five days of live-fire drills across the island on Monday as part of a key annual exercise repelling a simulated multi-pronged attack from the mainland, amid strained cross-strait relations.

A flotilla of warplanes, including P-3C sub hunters and Mirage 2000-5 and F-16 fighters rose from bases in the island’s west early Monday morning. They were staging emergency evacuations to bases in eastern Taiwan, in Hualien and Chiashan, in the face of simulated strikes by the PLA, defence ministry officials said.

“The drill, involving dozens of warplanes, was meant to preserve the combat power of our warplanes in the face of missile attacks by the enemy on our airbases in the western part of Taiwan,” a ministry official said.

The army also practised landings, take-offs and mid-air refuelling with its AH-64E Apache attack helicopters, he said.

The focus of the live-fire phase of the 33rd Han Kuang drills will be on Thursday. Elite forces from the island’s army, navy and air force would engage in a mock battle on the island of Penghu in the Taiwan Strait, the official said.

Tawianese marines will play the PLA in a simulated amphibious attack, using a fleet of Taiwan’s landing craft. Artillery and mortars would be deployed to fend off the attack, the official said.

President Tsai Ing-wen was planning to inspect the wargames in Penghu on Thursday, he added.

The live-fire phase of the annual wargames was preceded by five days of computer-simulated wargames held from May 1 to May 5, which gamed an invasion by the PLA in 2025.

A military source said the US had sent its usual observation team led by retired generals to observe the computer games and provide recommendations.

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Separately, Taiwan’s coastguard will hold defensive drills on Taiping Island, in the disputed waters of the South China Sea, from Wednesday until Friday.

Beijing has suspended talks and exchanges with Taiwan because Tsai – of the independence-leaning Democratic Progressive Party – refuses to accept the 1992 consensus demanded by Beijing. It stipulates that there is only one China, but that each side can interpret what “China” means.