Taiwan’s Ministry of National Defense (MND) announced Tuesday that it had conducted large-scale military exercises throughout the country that began around 5:30 a.m. on March 24 with simulated air attacks that were supposed to represent strikes from the Chinese People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF).
“The drills were designed to test the combat readiness of our forces and their responses to an all-out invasion by the enemy,” the MND said, reported the South China Morning Post.
A total of eight F-16 fighter jets of the Republic of China Air Force departed Hualien Air Base that morning and, during a number of missions, practiced intercepting long-range attacks from a mock Chinese aerial invasion. According to the Taipei Times, aircraft also practiced making emergency landings on the base’s backup runway in the event that the main runway was damaged and needed to be repaired by ground crews.
Anti-aircraft drills were conducted by the Republic of China Army and Navy, which deployed Kidd-class destroyers and frigates near the island’s coast.
Channel News Asia reported that the F-16 drills came as a direct response to China’s attempts at flexing its military might amid the COVID-19 novel coronavirus pandemic.
Just last week, several PLAAF J-11 fighter jets and KJ-500 early warning and control aircraft were intercepted and driven away by Taiwanese jets after crossing the median line of the Taiwan Strait.
“After our air reconnaissance and patrol aircraft responded appropriately, and broadcast [an order] to drive them away, the Communist aircraft flew away from our Air Defense Identification Zone,” Taiwan’s Ministry of Defense said in a statement, as reported by Reuters.
Taiwan President Tsai Ing Wen took to social media earlier this week to express her displeasure with China’s actions near the island, stating, “Whether it’s national defense or preventing the spread of disease, our armed forces remain as vigilant as ever.”
As the world grapples with the severity of the #COVID19 pandemic, China’s military maneuvers around #Taiwan have continued unabated. Whether it’s national defence or preventing the spread of disease, our armed forces remain as vigilant as ever. #IslandOfResilience pic.twitter.com/zFkBsmHVJN— 蔡英文 Tsai Ing-wen (@iingwen) March 24, 2020
The MND spotted PLAAF aircraft near Taiwan on several occasions last month, including on February 9, 10 and 28, according to the Taipei Times. The MND has said that these “targeted” drills are “concrete evidence of provocations and threats.”