Fri, Jul 23, 2004 - Page 2 News List

Military exercise gathers forces in simulated battle

INVASION SCENARIO With amphibious landing vehicles and paratroopers showing off their moves yesterday, today will focus on displays of shooting

By Jimmy Chuang  /  STAFF REPORTER , WITH CNA

Members of a parachute regiment descend from the skies over Pingtung County yesterday as part of an airborne drill conducted by the armed forces joint special operations command to coincide with the Han Kuang military exercises.

PHOTO: CHANG CHUNG-YI, TAIPEI TIMES

Approximately 5,000 military personnel engaged in war games in Pingtung County yesterday on the second day of the annual Han Kuang military exercise.

Yesterday's activities started with the marines' exercise in Fangshan Township around dawn. Nearly 1,600 marines hopped into amphibious landing vehicles and took over a beach area after explosives planted by the navy's Underwater Demolition Unit were detonated.

In Chaochou Township, 240 paratroopers played their role as the enemies, jumping out of C-130 Hercules aircraft from 381 feet and landing on the ground within one minute. According to the scenario, the army's anti-parachute unit immediately prevented them from advancing.

"The amphibious war game is quite important to us, since we are defending an island," said Chen Yung-fu (陳永福), a navy captain who was one of the commanding officers. "The exercise is also a demonstration to our enemy that our ability to defend our own land has not eroded at all."

No injuries or accidents were reported during yesterday's exercise. However, it is obvious that the exercise was not completely flawless.

While jumping out of an amphibious craft and advancing, a marine accidentally dropped his rifle in front of media representatives, but he soon picked it up and proceeded.

When two paratroopers' parachutes tangled in midair, their instructor tried to calm them by speaking through a huge speaker. Another paratrooper's chute was strung from a betel-nut palm, while a fellow paratrooper landed in a pond.

In the meantime, a number of paratroopers advanced toward and through a group of reporters and photographers while trying to join their fellow soldiers.

According to the schedule, the army's gunnery units were gearing up for a shooting exercise today.

Against the backdrop of both China and Taiwan conducting war games in the Taiwan Strait, a US State Department spokesman said on Tuesday that while military exercises are normal, those involved should avoid any steps that might be provocative or increase cross-strait tensions.

At a press briefing, spokesman Richard Boucher was asked if the US is concerned that a miscalculation or incident could easily occur with so many military exercises being held in the same relatively limited area.

"We think that everybody who conducts them or observes them or whatever should be very careful not to allow an incident," Boucher said.

In recent days, the US has been conducting military exercises dubbed Summer Pulse 2004, while China has been conducting amphibious military operations in the Taiwan Strait, and Taiwan has begun its Han Kuang No. 20 military exercise.

Asked whether the US has talked to Taiwan or China about how to avoid any incidents given the absence of direct communications or a military hotline between the two sides of the strait, Boucher said: "We do have contacts with people in the military in these places. But no, I don't know to what extent we might have talked to them specifically about these exercises."

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