Taiwan begins live-fire artillery exercise amid China manoeuvres
Taipei: Taiwan on Tuesday began scheduled live-fire artillery exercises amid China’s ongoing military manoeuvres around the island.
The live ammunition artillery exercise known as the Tien Lei drill was announced in late July and was designed to simulate Taiwan’s defence against an attack by China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA), reports dpa news agency.
It is taking place on Tuesday and Thursday this week and was planned as part of Taiwan’s annual Han Kuang exercises, but comes amid heightened tensions and just after China said it would extend large-scale air and sea drills to the north, south-west and east of Taiwan that had been due to end on Sunday.
No new formal end date has been announced.
Taiwanese television reported on Tuesday that flares were fired in coastal areas during the military exercise in Pingtung county in the island’s south, near a zone previously designated by the Chinese army for its drill.
The Foreign Ministry in Taipei has condemned China’s extension of its manoeuvres near Taiwan.
“China’s real intention behind these military exercises is to alter the status quo in the Taiwan Strait and the entire region,” Foreign Minister Joseph Wu told a news conference.
Wu said China’s large-scale military exercises, missile launches and cyberattacks were all part of Beijing’s “military playbook to prepare for the invasion of Taiwan”.
He said they were strategies to “weaken public morale” on the island.
China launched the military manoeuvres on August 2 in response to US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan.
Since its launch, the Chinese military practised not only a naval and air blockade, but also amphibious landing capabilities to launch beach assaults on Taiwan, according to Chinese media.
Taiwan’s military said Chinese aircraft flew 66 sorties on Sunday alone. In the process, 22 jets crossed the Taiwan Strait median line, a demarcation that had mostly been respected in the past.
Fourteen Chinese warships were said to have participated, as well.
A Chinese drone was also spotted again on Sunday evening over the outlying Taiwanese island of Kinmen, which is only a few kilometres from the Chinese coast.