Taiwan military stages exercise to fight off mock invasion

Lawrence Chung

Taiwan has staged large-scale military drills throughout the island, including an exercise to repel an invading force, against a backdrop of rising tensions with Beijing.

The exercises, dubbed “Lien Hsiang”, involved the air force, army and the navy and were conducted on Tuesday from various military bases and strongholds in Taiwan, the island’s defence ministry said in a statement.

“The drills were designed to test the combat readiness of our forces and their responses to an all-out invasion by the enemy,” the ministry said, referring to the People’s Liberation Army, which has threatened to attack the self-ruled island.

The exercise follows a live-fire US drill in the region last week.

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Eight F-16 fighter jets took off from the air force base in the eastern county of Hualien at dawn on Tuesday, simulating an emergency mission to scramble and intercept enemy warplanes entering the island’s airspace, the defence ministry said.

Elsewhere on the island, F-16 and other fighter jets were spotted taking off from other air force bases in the southwestern county of Chiayi, the northern county of Hsinchu, Ching Chuan Kang in central Taiwan and the southern city of Tainan, according to Taiwanese media.

The exercises also involved operations testing cyberwarfare capabilities, while air force ground crews simulated an emergency repair of an aircraft runway, the ministry said.

Anti-air units of both the army and the navy also joined the air force in the drills, while various types of naval warships, including Kidd-class destroyers, plus Perry and Kang Ding-class frigates, were deployed near Taiwan’s coast for separated training drills, it added.

The ministry said the training mission, carried out without live ammunition, was also designed to test the military’s response and make improvements based on the results.

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Beijing considers Taiwan a wayward province that must be returned to the mainland fold, by force if necessary.

Beijing has staged a series of war games close to the island and poached seven of Taiwan’s diplomatic allies to heap pressure on President Tsai Ing-wen, from the independence-leaning Democratic Progressive Party, who was re-elected in January.

The exercises came after recent missions by People’s Liberation Army warplanes, which briefly crossed the midpoint of the Taiwan Strait into the Taiwanese side in what analysts saw as testing the response from Taiwan and the United States.

Three separate groups of warplanes approached Taiwan on their way to the western Pacific over the Bashi Channel for long-distance training exercises before returning home over the Miyako Strait to the northeast of Taiwan on February 9, 10 and 28.

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On March 17, another flight of PLA warplanes approached Taiwan in a rare exercise that analysts said was aimed at showing off their night navigation and all-weather capabilities.

Taiwan’s air force scrambled fighter jets to shadow, intercept and disperse the PLA warplanes through radio warnings during each approach by the mainland’s planes, according to the ministry.

Those actions also prompted the US to send two B-52 bombers on southbound flights off Taiwan’s east coast, while a transport plane flew over the Taiwan Strait, the defence ministry said.

On Tuesday, the US Navy’s 7th Fleet also revealed that the US Navy had carried out live-fire missile tests in the Philippine Sea last week, in what analysts said was a message that it was up to the challenge of the Chinese military’s new systems.

DPP legislator Wang Ting-yu asked the Tsai government to take note of developments in the South China Sea, saying the US actions indicated that Washington must have learned “certain information suggesting that the Chinese government is planning certain military activities” or the 7th Fleet would not have made such a bold move.

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