Houston Community News >> Taiwan Conducts Big Military Exercise

5/22/2007 ILAN, Taiwan (AP) - Anti-aircraft missiles streaked across a hazy sky Wednesday as Taiwanese forces confronted a simulated invasion from rival China in the island's biggest military exercise of the year.

The Hankuang (Chinese Glory) war games are a test of military readiness for the self-governing island of 23 million people 58 years after it split from the mainland amid civil war.

Some 1,800 military personnel participated in Wednesday's drills, which featured Taiwanese fighter jets, frigates and helicopters repelling a mock Chinese sea borne invasion along an isolated stretch of the island's northeastern coast.

As top military brass looked on, a lethal array of Hawk, Stinger, Chaparral and other missiles took out one ``Chinese'' vessel after another, and neutralized the jet aircraft that were backing them up.

Mobile radar installations perched on a strategically located hill helped direct the strikes, though some of the missiles failed to explode, or missed their intended targets.

Faithfully chronicled by Taiwan's seven round-the-clock cable TV news stations, the exercises are meant to reassure Taiwan's people that their largely American-equipped military is up to the task of confronting Chinese threats to invade.

Two years ago Beijing passed a law saying it would attack across the 100 mile-wide Taiwan Strait if Taiwan moved to formalize its de facto independence - codifying similar rhetoric from the previous five and a half decades.

But many Taiwanese now seem oblivious to the threat of war, believing that 15 years of thriving economic ties and a common language and culture will rule out armed invasion from the mainland.

Wednesday's exercise was the second in a three-day series of war games, which under the Hankuang moniker Taiwan has conducted annually since 1984.

Taiwanese jet fighters on Tuesday landed on a normally busy highway to simulate a response to a ``Chinese'' bombardment of major air force bases, and artillery batteries pummeled a flotilla of ``Chinese'' vessels attempting to land on the offshore island of Penghu.

On Thursday, Taiwanese ground units are scheduled to mount a coordinated operation against a simulated Chinese airborne invasion in Hsinchu county about 57 miles south of Taipei.

(Contributed by AP)