Taiwan tests defences in major morning drills amid looming threat of Chinese invasion

Taiwan says it will intensify training as Chinese aircraft and ships encroach into its space

Shweta Sharma
Tuesday 26 March 2024 06:10 GMT
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Taiwan conducted air defence tests on Tuesday using surface-to-air missiles and its air, land, and naval forces to ramp up training as Chinese forces continue “intrusions” into the self-ruled island.

Taiwan’s Air Force Command said it conducted an early morning training exercise between 5am and 7am local time using anti-aircraft artillery systems and US-made Patriot missiles in a bid to test its "overall air defence combat plan exercises".

"The aim was to verify the command and control of joint air defence operations among the three branches of the military,” Taiwan’s Air Force said.

"In the face of Chinese aircraft and ships frequently encroaching into Taiwan‘s surrounding sea and air space, the air force will continue to increase its training intensity to deal with potential threats.”

The surface-to-air missile tests were conducted using domestically made Sky Bow and Patriot missiles.

Taiwan says it is being forced to ramp up military preparedness as Beijing repeatedly asserts its claim to the territory housing 23 million people and its outlying islands.

Beijing has increased its near-daily presence around the island in the last four years, employing what Taiwan describes as "gray zone" tactics to exert pressure while avoiding direct conflict that could draw a response from the US.

Speaking from Taiwan’s east coast in Suao, home to a major navy base, defence ministry spokesperson Sun Li-fang avoided directly linking the drills with current tensions with China and called it routine annual drills.

"How to increase our overall military capabilities is very important," he told reporters.

Taiwan‘s government rejects China’s territorial claims, saying only the island’s people can decide their future.

The tests come as Taiwan is set to kick off a period of extensive military drills, spanning 20 days from 2 to 20 April. The series of live-fire military exercises will take place around its offshore islets, including Kinmen, an island just a few kilometres from Chinese territory that has become a major flashpoint between the two in recent months.

On Tuesday, a total of 13 Chinese aircraft and seven navy vessels were observed around Taiwan within the 24-hour period leading up to 6am (2200 GMT Monday), Taiwan’s defence ministry said.

During the previous week, Taiwan identified 36 Chinese military aircraft encircling the island within a 24-hour timeframe, marking the highest single-day count recorded this year.

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