TAIPEI – Taiwan has ended a week-long annual air-raid exercise and military drills as the island steps up preparations in the event of a Chinese attack.
From Monday to Thursday, sirens rang across the island as part of the Wan An air defence drill, aimed at raising civilian awareness of what to do in an air raid.
At the same time, the land, air and naval forces carried out the annual Han Kuang military exercises that simulated responses to a Chinese invasion.
While both drills are held every year, this year’s exercises took place amid increasing Chinese military manoeuvres around the island.
They also happened at a time of raised tensions between the United States and China, as rumours of US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s plans to visit Taiwan next month angered China.
China views the self-ruled island as a renegade province, which it will retake by force if necessary. Taiwan rejects China’s sovereignty claim and has vowed to defend itself.
This year’s Wan An air defence drill was its “biggest scale” yet, reported local media, as the Ministry of National Defence scheduled it to coincide with the Han Kuang exercises, which are the island’s main live-fire military drills.
The Wan An exercise was similar to that in recent years, with Taiwan divided into four areas, each undergoing a 30-minute drill where pedestrians were asked to seek shelter and vehicles to come to a halt.
But local governments have taken things to the next level.
For the first time in many years, the Taipei City government asked passengers and drivers to vacate their vehicles upon hearing the siren and head to the nearest air-raid shelter, and requested that those in schools, markets and other public spaces do the same.
“As the capital, Taipei’s population density is high and is also where the central government is located. If there is an air strike, Taipei may be the first (target). This is why we have been more tense about the drill,” said Taipei Deputy Mayor Huang Shan-shan last Friday.
Besides rising tensions with China, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has also renewed debate in Taiwan about how best to react in the event of an attack.
The police department in Chiayi City, on Taiwan’s south-western coast, filmed videos in seven different languages, including Mandarin, English, Japanese and Thai, to educate all residents, including foreigners and migrant workers, of the upcoming drills.
In addition, all residents received an alert on their phones in the minutes leading up to the drill, reminding them to stop what they were doing and seek shelter.