Fri, Jun 08, 2018 - Page 1 News List

President Tsai, Swazi king observe military drills

SACRIFICE:The president expressed her condolences for a pilot killed on Monday while participating in the Han Kuang exercise, saying it was a ‘loss for the nation’

Staff writer, with agencies

President Tsai Ing-wen, center right, and Swazi King Mswati III, center left, observe the Han Kuang military exercises in Taichung yesterday.

Photo courtesy of the Presidential Office

King Mswati III, Africa’s last absolute monarch and leader of Taiwan’s only remaining African ally, Eswatini, yesterday became the first foreign leader to observe a portion of the annual Han Kuang military exercises.

Yesterday’s drills in Taichung were presided over by President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) and watched by the king.

Taiwan had invited other diplomatic allies to observe the military drills, but the attendees were mostly those nations’ representatives in Taiwan or military officers, said a government source, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Military units yesterday repelled a simulated invasion and employed civilian-operated aerial drones for the first time in the annual military exercise.

“Our armed forces’ combat effectiveness is the guarantee for our national security. It is the flourishing basis of society and the back-up force for our values of democracy and freedom,” Tsai said.

“As long as our armed forces are around, Taiwan will surely be around,” she added.

More than 4,000 personnel were deployed in the exercise, while drones flew overhead to provide battlefield surveillance and construction workers practiced repairing an airbase runway.

“Through the drills, our armed forces displayed their fighting capacity, which our ally was able to observe,” Ministry of National Defense spokesman Major General Chen Chung-chi (陳中吉) said. “This is one way we hope to deepen dialogue on both sides.”

China has called on Eswatini to sever relations with Taiwan by September, when Beijing is to host a summit of African leaders.

Chen also said that Taiwan was eager to take part in a US-hosted naval drill, the Rim of the Pacific Exercise (RIMPAC).

The Pentagon last month withdrew an invitation to China to this year’s RIMPAC in response to what it sees as Beijing’s militarization of islands in the South China Sea.

RIMPAC, billed as the world’s largest international maritime drill, is held every two years off the coast of Hawaii in June and July.

Tsai also expressed her condolences for the death of Major Wu Yen-ting (吳彥霆), who was killed on Monday when his F-16 crashed in New Taipei City while participating in the Han Kuang exercises.

“We are saddened by the loss of a young and exceptional pilot. His death is also a loss for the nation,” Tsai said.

“On behalf of Taiwan’s people, we pay our greatest respects to the military for the sacrifices they have made for the nation,” she added.

This year’s Han Kuang exercises end today.

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