An AH-1W attack helicopter releases flares during during the annual Han Kuang exercises in Pingtung County, Southern Taiwan, on Thursday.
Taiwan’s air, sea and land forces conducted a drill to repel an invading force on Thursday, as its defence minister pledged to defend the self-ruled island against China’s rising military threat.
Fighter jets launched strikes and warships opened fired to destroy an enemy beachhead, while more than 3,000 soldiers took part in the live-fire drill in the southern county of Pingtung.
During annual military exercises across the island this week, fighter jets have landed on Taiwan’s main highway and air raid drills have shut its major cities.
While it was just a mock exercise, Defence Minister Yen Teh-fa left no doubt where the greatest perceived threat lay.
A US-made F-16 fighter jet (R) launches a flare during the 35th “Han Kuang” (Han Glory) military drill in southern Taiwan's Pingtung county on Thursday. Sam Yeh/ AFP
“The military force of the Chinese Communist Party has continued to expand, without giving up the use of force to invade Taiwan,” Yen told reporters while observing the drill.
China sees Taiwan part of “one China” and has never renounced the use of force to bring the democratic island under its control.
Yen’s comments follow a spike in cross-strait tensions. During recent months, China’s military staged extensive drills with warships, bombers and reconnaissance aircraft near the island, moves Taipei denounced as intimidation.
Yen said it was Beijing’s intention to “destroy regional stability and cross-strait security.”
Taiwan is one of a growing number of flashpoints in the US-China relationship, which include an escalating trade war and China’s muscular military posture in the South China Sea, where the United States also conducts freedom-of-navigation patrols.
Earlier this month, senior US and Taiwanese security officials held a rare meeting, a move that angered Beijing.
China has stepped up pressure on Taiwan, suspecting that its President Tsai Ing-wen is pushing for the island’s formal independence - a red line for Beijing.
Tsai repeatedly says she wants to maintain the status quo with China but will defend Taiwan’s security and democracy.
The statement issued by the Cabinet’s Taiwan Affairs Office and its news department followed almost a week of missile firings and incursions into Taiwanese waters and airspace by Chinese warships and air force planes.
The US military said it sent two Navy warships through the Taiwan Strait on Sunday as the Pentagon increases the frequency of movement through the strategic waterway despite opposition from China.
Taiwan’s export orders contracted for an eighth straight month in June, with global companies increasingly hesitant to make new investments in machinery as the China-US trade war wears on.
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