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Friday, July 21, 2006

Taiwan holds live war-game, simulates Chinese invasion

Fri, 21 Jul 2006, 00:58

Taiwan held its largest live-fire military exercise in years on July 20, testing fighter jets, U.S.-made Patriot missiles and ground troops against a simulated invasion by arch foe China.

Two anti-missile Patriots streaked towards the sky from mobile launchers on a beach off the northeastern city of Ilan during a drill codenamed “Han Kuang 22”. They destroyed a target missile launched some 30 kilometers (18 miles) away.

”This is the first time Patriot missiles were launched before the eyes of the public...to show our determination to safeguard Taiwan,” President Chen Shui-bian told hundreds of guests and reporters.

Chen earlier this week again warned about China’s growing military threat, saying it is now targeting 820 missiles at Taiwan.

The People’s Liberation Army has deployed 784 ballistic and 36 cruise missiles aimed at the island, he said, adding that the number was rising at the rate of 120 per year.

These could paralyze Taiwan’s communications and transportation and command centers in a 10-hour bombardment, the defense ministry says.

Military authorities have been seeking to acquire more Patriot missiles, part of a proposed 10-billion-dollar package of U.S. arms, to counter the Chinese missiles. Opposition parties have blocked the purchase.

Thursday’s war game simulated an attempt by the People’s Liberation Army to attack and land on Taiwan’s northeast. Nearly all the sophisticated weaponry in Taiwan’s military inventory was deployed along with more than 13,000 soldiers.

Several squadrons of F-16 fighter jets and SuperCobra combat helicopters scrambled from nearby bases to fire air-to-air missiles and Hellfire rockets to wipe out targets in the air and on the sea.

The army also showcased its capability against airborne invaders when hundreds of paratroopers simulating Chinese soldiers were dropped on Ilan city, where a mock street battle broke out.

The simulated invaders eventually surrendered after they were surrounded by a fleet of some 20 armored vehicles flanked by defense units.

Chen has pledged gradually to increase military spending to around three percent of gross domestic product, up from 2.5 percent currently.

A Pentagon report last year estimated that China’s defense spending was two to three times the publicly announced figure and that the cross-strait military balance was tipping in Beijing’s favor.

China has repeatedly threatened to invade self-governing Taiwan should the island declare formal independence. It has regarded Taiwan as part of its territory since they split in 1949 at the end of a civil war.

Tensions between Taiwan and China have escalated since the independence-leaning Chen was elected president in 2000. He was narrowly re-elected in 2004.
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