Taiwan's annual Han Kuang fire drill Photograph:( Reuters )
This year's annual drills, dubbed 'Han Kuang,' which are Taiwan's main annual exercises, come as China has stepped up its military activity around the island, including flying fighters and bombers close to what Beijing calls its 'sacred territory'.
Taiwan's air, sea and land forces on Thursday fought off simulated coastal assaults from China during their biggest annual live-fire exercises of the year, as Beijing ramps up military pressure on the island.
The five-day drill, which began on Monday, is aimed at testing how democratic Taiwan's armed forces would repel an invasion from its giant neighbour.
Thursday's simulation saw Taiwan's fighter jets, warships and ground troops repelling an enemy attempt to land on a beach in the central city of Taichung in an operation involving some 8,000 service members.
F-16 and domestically made Ching-kuo fighter jets launched strikes and tanks raced across inland scrub, firing shells to destroy targets on the beach. About 8,000 personnel took part in drills, held on a coastal strip near Taichung in central Taiwan.
This year's annual drills, dubbed "Han Kuang," which are Taiwan's main annual exercises, come as China has stepped up its military activity around the island, including flying fighters and bombers close to what Beijing calls its "sacred territory".
President Tsai Ing-wen watched the drill, later tweeting that it "demonstrated to the world our robust defence capabilities and strong determination to defend Taiwan".
The #HanKuang36 exercise demonstrated to the world our robust defense capabilities & strong determination to defend #Taiwan. The fighting spirit of our men & women in uniform was on full display, with outstanding communication & cooperation during joint operations. pic.twitter.com/aTzpsregGT— 蔡英文 Tsai Ing-wen (@iingwen) July 16, 2020
"The Han Kuang exercises are a major annual event for the armed forces, evaluating the development of combat abilities. Even more, it lets the world see our determination and efforts to defend the country's territory," Tsai told the troops.
Tsai, who won re-election by a landslide in January, pledging to stand up to China, has made military modernisation a priority. Taiwan unveiled its largest defence spending increase in more than a decade last year.
"As I have said, national security does not rely on bowing and scraping but on solid national defence. All our officers and soldiers are the core of that," she added.
Although Taiwan's military is well-trained and well-equipped with mostly US-made hardware, China has huge numerical superiority and is adding advanced equipment such as stealth fighters and new ballistic missiles.
Beijing regards Taiwan as part of its territory and has vowed to one day seize it, by force if necessary. Taipei has lived with the threat of invasion by China since the two sides split in 1949 after a civil war.
In recent decades it has found itself increasingly outnumbered and outgunned by China's enormous People's Liberation Army.
Beijing has piled military, economic and diplomatic pressure on Taiwan since Tsai came to power in 2016, because she refuses to acknowledge its stance that the island is part of "one China".
China has stepped up pressure on Taiwan, saying Tsai is pushing for the island's formal independence - a red line for Beijing. She says Taiwan is already an independent state called the Republic of China, its official name.
Taiwan is one of a growing number of flashpoints in the U.S.-China relationship. Beijing routinely denounces Washington's support for the island.