Taiwan holds live-fire drills as China tensions mount

TAIWAN: Taiwanese troops staged live-fire exercises yesterday to simulate fending off an invasion, as China steps up pressure on President Tsai Ing-wen and a row over airline routes escalated.

The military dispatched reconnaissance aircraft to surveil simulated incoming ships, followed by tanks firing rounds as the mimicked enemy landed at the Port of Hualien in eastern Taiwan.

Attack helicopters released flares and F-16 fighter jets also launched assaults, backing up an on-the-ground battle against the "enemy" troops - who wore red helmets to differentiate themselves.

While the ministry did not specify the annual drill simulated a Chinese invasion, it said the drill is to "show determination to safeguard peace in the Taiwan Strait and national security".

The Taiwan Strait is the waterway that separates the island from China.

It comes after Ms Tsai last month warned against what she called Beijing's "military expansion" - the increase of Chinese air and naval drills around the island since she came to power in May 2016 - and amid a new row over flight routes in the strait.

This month, China opened several new air routes, including a north-bound route up the Taiwan Strait.

Taiwan says it was done without its agreement, contravening what the democratic government in Taipei has said was a 2015 deal to first discuss such flight paths. - AFP, REUTERS