U.S. military observers to miss Taiwan's war games for second year

04/07/2021 06:49 PM
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Soldiers launch a missile during the Han Guang exercises in Taichung in 2020. CNA file photo
Soldiers launch a missile during the Han Guang exercises in Taichung in 2020. CNA file photo

Taipei, April 7 (CNA) The United States military will not observe Taiwan's annual war games for the second year in a row due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Ministry of National Defense (MND) said Wednesday.

Major General Liu Yu-ping (劉豫屏) of the MND's Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff of the General Staff for Training, said the ministry did not invite a U.S. military delegation to Taiwan to conduct an "After Action Review" of this year's Han Kuang exercises due to the coronavirus disease.

However, Liu said the absence of the U.S. delegation will not affect long-term bilateral cooperation between the two countries in terms of military exchanges.

Instead, the ministry will invite officials from the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) to observe this year's Han Kuang exercises, according to the MND. AIT represents U.S. interests in the country in the absence of official diplomatic ties,

The annual Han Kuang exercises, first held in 1984, are the nation's largest military exercises involving all branches of the armed forces.

The U.S. military has sent a delegation to observe the annual drill, which aims to test local armed forces' combat readiness in the event of a Chinese invasion, every year since 2003, local media has reported.

Last year was the first time no U.S. military delegation attended the annual war games. Officials from AIT observed the exercises in their place.

Meanwhile, this year's Han Kuang exercises will again be held in two stages; computer-assisted war games and live-fire drills, scheduled for April and July, respectively, announced Major General Lin Wen-huang (林文皇) of the MND's Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff of the General Staff for Operations and Planning.

The computer war games phase will be conducted 24/7 from April 23-30, using the Joint Theater Level Simulation (JTLS) system. The live-fire drills will be staged July 12-16, he said.

The exercises will also test the ability of the armed forces to mobilize reserve forces, with an estimated 8,000 reservists set to be called up, according to the MND.

Another major focus on the live-fire drill section of the Han Kuang exercises will be the staging of a series of emergency landing and takeoff drills for fighter jets in Pingtung County.

The drill will be conducted on the Jiadong section of Provincial Highway No. 1 in Pingtung County for the first time. This is one of five sections built to accommodate emergency military jet landings and takeoffs in the event of a war, according to Lin.

The drill will simulate a scenario in which Taiwan's military and civilian airports and airstrips are seriously damaged by enemy fire, and jets have to land on the highway.

The other emergency landing strips are on Freeway No. 1 -- on the Madou and Rende sections in Tainan County, Huatan section in Changhua County, and Minxiong section in Chiayi County.

Exercises have previously been conducted on these four sections, whereas drills planned for the Jiadong section in 2011 were cancelled due to poor weather conditions.

(By Chung Yu-chen and Joseph Yeh)

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