Taiwan conducts missile drills 'in face of' China military intrusions


Navy soldiers walk past a Taiwan-made corvette warship during the inauguration ceremony in Yilan on March 26, 2024. [AFP]

Taiwan conducted an air defense test on Tuesday deploying US-made Patriot missiles and its anti-aircraft artillery systems, saying it will ramp up training in the face of Chinese military "intrusions" around the self-ruled island.

Beijing claims Taiwan as part of its territory and has said it will not rule out using force to bring the island under its control.

Chinese warplanes and ships maintain a near-daily presence around the island, as Beijing has ramped up military pressure against Taipei using what experts say are "grey zone" actions — tactics that stop short of outright acts of war.

Taiwan's Air Force Command said it conducted an exercise between 5:00 and 7:00 am (2100-2300 GMT Monday) that included the island's domestically made Sky Bow and U.S.-made Patriot surface-to-air missiles along with army and navy units.

"The aim was to verify the command and control of joint air defence operations among the three branches of the military," it said, adding that the exercise went smoothly.

"In the face of frequent intrusions by PLA aircraft and vessels into the airspace and waters surrounding Taiwan, the Air Force will continue to enhance training intensity to respond to potential threats."

Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen rejects China's claim over the island, causing Beijing to cut all high-level communications since she came into power in 2016.

She has ramped up defense spending during her eight years in office, acquiring military weapons and developing Taiwan-made equipment, like submarines and ships.

Tuesday, Tsai oversaw the handover of two domestically made warships — both Tuo Chiang-class corvettes — at Suao port in northeast Yilan county.

"Over the past few years, we have steadily implemented defense autonomy with Taiwan-made warships being named, launched, and commissioned one after another at an increasingly rapid pace," Tsai said in a speech.

"These achievements repeatedly demonstrate Taiwan's capacity for domestic shipbuilding and proves our determination to safeguard our democracy and freedom."

She also praised the warships — designed for stealthy multi-missions and easily maneuvered — for being a year ahead of schedule.

Taipei's defense ministry said 13 Chinese aircraft and seven navy vessels were spotted around Taiwan in the 24 hours leading up to 6:00 am Tuesday.

Last week, Taiwan detected 36 Chinese military aircraft around the island in a 24-hour window, the highest single-day number this year so far.