Wed, Jan 31, 2018 - Page 3 News List

Military’s annual pre-holiday drills held in Hualien

AFP, HUALIEN, with staff writer

A Bell AH-1W Super Cobra attack helicopter deploys decoy flares to divert heat-seeking missiles during live-fire exercises yesterday in Hualien County.

Photo: Huang Yao-cheng, Taipei Times

Live-fire exercises held yesterday in Hualien County simulated a response to an invasion.

The military sent reconnaissance aircraft to observe simulated incoming ships, and tanks fired rounds as the “enemy” landed at Hualien.

Attack helicopters fired flares and F-16 aircraft launched simulated assaults, backing up the ground battle against “enemy” troops — who wore red helmets to differentiate themselves.

The Ministry of National Defense did not specify that the annual drill simulated an invasion by China, but said it was intended to “show determination to safeguard peace in the Taiwan Strait and national security.”

The annual drills are held before the Lunar New Year holiday to raise public confidence in the nation’s defense capabilities.

“Our combat readiness has no holidays,” Lieutenant General Huang Kai-sen told reporters. “In order for our citizens to feel safe during the Lunar New Year, we are standing by and on guard 24 hours a day.”

President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) last month warned against what she called Beijing’s “military expansion” — the increase in Chinese air and naval drills around Taiwan since she came to power in May 2016.

However, tensions have been growing since China began operating a new flight route earlier this month in the Taiwan Strait without consulting Taiwan.

The government slammed the move as reckless and politically motivated, adding it could threaten Taiwan’s security and endanger flight safety. It has retaliated by blocking requests to operate 176 additional cross-strait flights by two Chinese airlines during the Lunar New Year.

China also sent its aircraft carrier the Liaoning through the Taiwan Strait twice this month. The Chinese Ministry of National Defense urged Taiwanese not to worry, but the voyages were seen as shows of strength by Beijing.

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