Six thousand Taiwanese troops practiced repelling a possible Chinese invasion Thursday, while the island’s leader emphasized the importance of reserve forces in fending off any attack.
The drill was part of Taiwan’s annual maneuvers called Han Kuang, or Chinese Glory -- a series of naval, air and land exercises that last several months.
Near the central city of Taichung, reserve soldiers shot flares into the air, apparently to mark a simulated Chinese beach landing, then opened up with mortar fire from heavily camouflaged positions.
A network of sniper nests and booby-trapped buildings were set up in the area.
Later, regular and reserve forces faced a simulated Chinese landing in nearby Daan port, blocking the beach with empty shipping containers and firing on “invading” vessels with small arms and antitank weapons.
After watching Thursday’s exercise, President Chen Shui-bian told soldiers that reservists could play a crucial role in defending the self-ruled island of 23 million people from mainland China, just 100 miles away.
The two split amid civil war in 1949, and China has threatened war if Taiwan moves toward formal independence.
“The standing army is for attack,” Chen said. “The reserve forces are for defense, so they can form a deterrent to prevent war.
“Modern warfare is not about military power alone,” he said. “It integrates the whole nation’s politics, economy, psychology and high-tech resources.”
This year’s maneuvers are the first since tensions rose after China passed an anti-secession law in March.
The law authorizes force if Taiwan takes steps toward independence.
China has mixed its threats with diplomacy. In recent months, the mainland welcomed visits by three Taiwanese opposition leaders whose parties favor eventual unification.
Chen is viewed as leaning toward independence. His attendance at the exercises appeared to be an effort to get closer to senior Taiwanese military officers, many of whom come from families with strong ties to the mainland and resent Chen’s efforts to carve out a separate Taiwanese identity.
Chen and his ruling Democratic Progressive Party have been reluctant to acknowledge Taiwan’s historic links with China.
But many of the island’s senior military leaders come from families who fled the mainland when Communist troops overwhelmed Chinese Nationalists during the civil war.