Taiwan’s Thunderbolt-2000 rocket system, which is designed to counter potential amphibious and sea attacks from mainland China, exploded during a live-fire combat drill in the southeast of the island on Monday. The artillery multiple launch rocket system, built by the island’s top weapon maker Chung-Shan Institute of Science and Technology , was firing a rocket during an army drill staged in Jiupeng near Manzhou township when the explosion occurred, according to the island’s defence ministry. “The rocket was jammed for an unknown reason when it was launched,” said a spokesman for the Fourth Military Operation Zone based in southern Taiwan. He said the propellent – a chemical mixture burned to produce thrust in the rocket – was set off instantly, causing an explosion that damaged the system’s launcher truck. “No officers and soldiers involved in the drill were injured,” the spokesman said, adding that the Chung-Shan Institute and the army had already set up an investigation task force to determine the cause of the incident to aid future firing drills and training missions. It was not immediately known if the incident was linked to a magnitude-6 earthquake that shook eastern Taiwan on Monday morning . Some residents in Manzhou claimed the explosion occurred at around the time the earthquake rocked the eastern county of Hualien. Local news media reports said residents there first heard a loud blast and then saw a mass of smoke from the drill site. The army then suspended the drill, the reports said. Beijing is likely to step up its campaign to ‘reunify’ with Taiwan It is the first such incident involving the Thunderbolt since it was commissioned by the army’s rocket squadron in 2012. The Thunderbolt-2000, which can help enhance the firepower of traditional tube artillery, is designed to fight off amphibious assault landing craft and other warships that could be sent by the People’s Liberation Army to attack the island. Along with a self-reload crane, it can be mounted to the rear of a high mobility 8×8 cargo truck. The launcher can be equipped with pods of unguided surface-to-surface rockets. The design of a sealed rocket pod ensures rapid reloading and lowers maintenance and storage requirements. With a fully automatic fire control system, the Thunderbolt uses three types of rockets with high explosive or cluster warheads – the Mk15, Mk30 and Mk45 which have a maximum range of 15km (9.3 miles), 30km and 45km, respectively – and are capable of hitting the mainland province of Fujian from Taiwan’s defence outposts of Quemoy and Matsu. Beijing, which views Taiwan as its own and has not renounced the use of force against the self-ruled island, has in recent years ramped up pressure against the government of President Tsai Ing-wen of the independence-leaning Democratic Progressive Party over her refusal to accept the one-China principle. It has sent sorties to Taiwan’s air defence identification zone almost daily – including 10 on Sunday – and staged war games nearby to step up intimidation against the island. Next US election may be danger time for Taiwan, warns veteran diplomat Taiwan’s exercise came as a group of indigenous residents unfurled banners in the township to protest against the military for failing to notify them before the drill took place near their homes, the Taipei-based Liberty Times reported. The residents said the military was restricting the time and location of their activities in addition to inflicting excess noise on their community from the firing of weapons. The newspaper said the military agreed to study remedial measures to improve the situation.