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Taiwan Navy Holds Drill Amid Tensions  05/22 06:18

   HUALIEN, Taiwan (AP) -- Taiwan's navy held a major live-fire exercise 
Wednesday off the island's east coast in an area increasingly threatened by 
Chinese ships and planes.

   The drills are part of annual Han Kuang exercises that simulate an attack by 
China, which claims Taiwan as its own territory to be annexed by force if 
necessary.

   Navy craft fired cannons and missiles and released depth charges, while 
fighter jets launched munitions and anti-submarine warfare aircraft released 
buoys.

   Submarines, along with a vast array of ballistic missiles, are considered 
among China's most potent weapons against Taiwan, which split from the mainland 
during a civil war in 1949.

   China has boosted its military threat against Taiwan, with President Xi 
Jinping saying this year that Beijing would not rule out using force. That 
comes on top of growing Chinese pressure to isolate Taiwan in the international 
community and inflict economic pain, largely to force independence-leaning 
President Tsai Ing-wen to agree to Beijing's contention that Taiwan is a part 
of China.

   Stepped-up Chinese operations have included sending ships to nearby waters 
and warplanes to circle the island on what Beijing calls training missions. 
While China would need to send thousands of troops across the Taiwan Strait to 
effect an invasion, Beijing military planners are also believed to be 
considering a form of lightning strike that could quickly devastate the 
island's ability to resist and force it to capitulate before its chief ally, 
the United States, could come to its aid.

   Taiwan's lightly populated east coast is home to a key air base and other 
important military installations.

   "We will conduct military exercises regularly at the location where we think 
the war could be possibly happening," navy Capt. Soong Shu-kou told reporters.

   "The waters off Taiwan's eastern coast are the important area where we need 
to conduct military drills often. Because this area could be a significant 
battle ground in the future," he said.

   Defense ministry spokesman Chen Jung-ji said Taiwan was accelerating the 
pace of training as a way of deterring Chinese aggression.

   "We can only depend on ourselves to defend our own country. We will conduct 
more training to strengthen our combat capabilities in the face of the ongoing 
military threats" from China, Chen said.


(KA)

 
 
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