Taiwan holds anti-landing drill on frontline island with China

TAIPEI (Reuters) - Taiwan’s armed forces have held anti-landing drills on one of its offshore islands close to China amid rising tensions with Beijing, the island’s defence ministry said on Friday, showing images of a cannon firing and soldiers loading the guns.

China has stepped up its military activities near Taiwan which it claims as its own territory, including flying fighter jets across the unofficial mid-line of the sensitive Taiwan Strait, which combat aircraft normally don’t breach.

China says it has been reacting to what Beijing has called “collusion” between Taiwan and the United States, and to protect China’s sovereignty, responding to U.S. Undersecretary for Economic Affairs Keith Krach’s visit last week to Taipei.

Taiwan’s Defence Ministry said the drills to repel a landing took place on the Matsu archipelago, which lies just offshore the Chinese city of Fuzhou.

“Whether the engine of a fighter plane or the rumbling of artillery, it is a reassuring sound for the national army that is defending the homeland,” it said in a post on its Facebook page.

The drills took place across the archipelago involving the use of cannons and machine guns, the ministry added, accompanied by pictures of the exercises.

“Please give the greatest applause to these officers and soldiers! Be our strongest backers!” it said.

Taiwan has held Matsu, along with Kinmen further down the coast, since defeated Nationalist forces fled to Taiwan in 1949 at the end of the Chinese civil war.

When Taiwan and China last joined battle on a large scale in 1958 it was around Matsu and Kinmen, with Chinese forces carrying out more than a month of bombardments, including naval and air battles.

Today the islands are popular tourist destinations, though Taiwan maintains a sizeable military presence.

Both are considered by experts as likely targets for Chinese invasion in any war with Taiwan due to their proximity to China.

Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan