Security around Itu Aba Island (Taiping Island, 太平島) remains unchanged, a military official said yesterday in response to lawmakers’ concerns about a military challenge in light of the recent anti-China riots in Vietnam.
There have been online rumors in Vietnam, Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Tsai Huang-Liang (蔡煌瑯) said, that Hanoi may fire toward Taiping Island — or even try to take it over with military force — to ease Vietnamese unrest, which erupted last week after China deployed an oil rig near the Paracel Islands (Xisha Islands, 西沙群島) — claimed by Taipei, Beijing and Hanoi.
Tsai spoke at a meeting of the legislature’s Foreign Affairs and National Defense Committee yesterday.
Deputy Minister of National Defense Andrew Hsia (夏立言) responded that the ministry had not received information about the possibility of such an attack.
He said the island was stationed by and ably protected by the Coast Guard Administration.
Military troops could reach the island in four hours using C-130 transport vehicles, Hsia said, adding that in good weather, Cheng-kung class frigates could arrive 36 hours.
Meanwhile, the government yesterday launched computerized war games, which featured its newly acquired AH-64 Apache helicopters defending a simulated attack by a Chinese aircraft carrier group.
The five-day drill, part of the nation’s biggest annual military maneuvers scheduled for September, is aimed at testing the military’s defense capability against China’s fast-expanding military, defense officials said, without providing details.
One scenario simulated attacks by a Chinese aircraft carrier group on the east coast, according to Chinese-language Apple Daily.
With defense focused on the west coast facing China, the east is relatively vulnerable to any Chinese invasion, analysts say.
The drill features for the first time weaponry acquired last year, including the latest variant of US-made Apaches, which military gurus say is the world’s most-lethal attack helicopter; P-3C submarine hunting aircraft; and an upgraded version of the nation’s Indigenous Defense Fighter, the Apple Daily said.