Taiwan began two days of war games on its east coast on Tuesday, simulating an attack by the People’s Liberation Army in the wake of Beijing’s intensifying sabre-rattling. Fighter jets, helicopters and a large number of troops were mobilised to fight the simulated invasion, which mimicked an attempt by warplanes from the PLA’s Liaoning aircraft carrier group to destroy its military bases on the east coast, defence officials said. Beijing considers Taiwan a breakaway Chinese province that must eventually be reunified with the mainland – by force if necessary. “The two-day drill, code-named Joint-Electronic 107-2 is aimed at testing the combat readiness of our forces and their ability to cope with the attack from the enemy by means of firepower and electronic warfare,” a military official said. The official said a fast combat support ship, the Panshi, had been stationed off the east coast to act as an “enemy” vessel, using its radar and other communications systems to try to disturb the operations of the island’s combined service forces. Taiwan responds to Beijing threats with pledge to increase military spending Taiwan’s air force scrambled F-16 fighters from Chiashan Airbase in the eastern county of Hualien to intercept the warplanes from the PLA and bombard the enemy’s battle group, he said. The official also said the drill was designed to strengthen the military’s ability to withstand a coordinated air and electronic attack from the PLA. The drill came a day after the military tested the combat capabilities of its warships, including Chengkung, Kidd and Lafayette-class naval vessels, off the coast of Hualien, according to the ministry. The military has held several other drills recently, including a joint air and land drill on October 9 – the eve of Taiwan’s national day – in northern Taiwan, and two preparatory drills on October 11 and 12 in eastern Taiwan. Local news media speculated that the drills were in preparation for a large-scale joint drill the United State is planning for the South China Sea and Taiwan Strait in November to challenge Beijing’s growing assertiveness in the region. The three US weapons that top Taiwan’s defence shopping list According to CNN, the US Navy’s Pacific Fleet has recommended that it carry out a series of operations across the world during a week in November to show Beijing that the US is ready to engage it militarily. The plan specifically recommended sending ships and aircraft to pass close to China’s territorial waters in the South China Sea and Taiwan Strait, as part of what Washington insists are “freedom of navigation operations” to protect free passage in the sea, the CNN report said. Taiwan’s defence ministry, however, dismissed the reports as sheer speculation and stressed that its military exercises were all routine drills that are planned well in advance and are staged according to schedule. Taiwan’s semi-official Central News Agency reported that the purpose of the simulations was to gauge the responses of potential allies in the event of China’s military attacking Taiwan, its infrastructure or, alternatively, attacking Taiwan’s outlying islands or territories in the South China Sea. The self-ruled island is one of the competing claimants of the South China Sea and holds Taiping, the largest land formation in the Spratly Islands. Taiwan invites Pope to visit in wake of China-Vatican deal Beijing recently built a number artificial reefs in the area in an effort to expand its influence, prompting sharp protests by other claimants and by the US. Relations between Taipei and Beijing have deteriorated since President Tsai Ing-wen was elected in 2016 and refused to accept the “one-China” principle, which Beijing insists must be the sole political basis for developing cross-strait ties.