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Taiwan tests air defences in early morning missile drills

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TAIPEI:Taiwan tested its air defences on Tuesday in early morning drills using surface-to-air missiles, and air, land and naval forces, saying it would continue to intensify training in the face of China’s frequent military activities nearby.
Taiwan, which China claims as its own territory, has complained over the past four years of repeated instances of Chinese air force aircraft and navy ships operating close to and around the island.
Taiwan’s air force command said in a brief statement that between 5 a.m. (2100 GMT) and 7 a.m. it had carried out “overall air defence combat plan exercises” using domestically made Sky Bow and U.S.-made Patriot surface-to-air missiles in conjunction with aircraft and navy ships.
The drills were “to inspect and verify the joint air defence combat command and control of the three branches”, it said, adding that the outcome was “good”.
“In the face of Chinese aircraft and ships frequently encroaching into Taiwan’s surrounding sea and air space, the air force will continue to increase its training intensity to deal with potential threats,” the air force said.
Speaking in Suao on Taiwan’s east coast, home to a major navy base, defence ministry spokesperson Sun Li-fang said that although there was no direct link between what he called routine annual drills such as these and current tensions, the threat from China was continuing to rise.
“How to increase our overall military capabilities is very important,” he told reporters.
Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen has overseen a military modernisation programme, including the development of new Taiwanese-made equipment. Much of the focus has been on the navy, which is massively outgunned and outnumbered by China’s fleet.
Tsai on Tuesday attended a handover ceremony in Suao for two new warships, both Tuo Chiang-class corvettes, which have been dubbed by Taiwan’s navy “carrier killers” because of their high manoeuvrability, stealthiness and anti-ship missiles.
They can also carry Sky Sword anti-aircraft missiles.
Tsai, noting that the two new warships had been handed over a year ahead of schedule, told officers that the domestically made ships show Taiwan’s determination to protect its freedom and democracy.
“Over the past few years we have firmly implemented national defence autonomy. Ships made by Taiwan have been named, launched and delivered one after another, faster and faster,” she added.
Taiwan’s government rejects China’s territorial claims, saying only the island’s people can decide their future.

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