Taiwan to hold first major drill since ’08

AFP-JIJI

Taiwan on Tuesday unveiled plans for its biggest live-fire military exercise since 2008, aimed at reviewing the island’s defense capabilities against a simulated Chinese invasion.

The operation will take place on April 17 on the Penghu islands in the middle of the 180-km strait that separates Taiwan from the Chinese mainland.

The archipelago is used to control major shipping lanes linking the South and East China Sea.

“The main purpose of the drill is to review the defense capability of the troops stationed in Penghu,” Maj. Gen. Tseng Fu-hsing told reporters.

President Ma Ying-jeou’s China-friendly administration has not held any major live-fire exercises since he came to power in 2008 on a platform of beefing up trade and tourism links, heralding a detente between the two sides.

Ma was re-elected in January 2012 for a second four-year term, and his government is now trying to boost its low popularity in the face of calls to stand up to Beijing, as well as continuing its policy of engagement.

During the operation, named “Han Kuang 29″ (Han Glory), the military would test the Ray Ting 2000 or “Thunder 2000″, a locally developed multiple-launch rocket system designed to prevent the enemy from making an amphibious landing, Tseng said.

The announcement of the drill came a day after Chinese media reported that Beijing had agreed to buy two dozen Su-35 fighter jets and four Lada-class submarines from Russia, the country’s first large-scale weapons technology purchases from Moscow in a decade.