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Taiwan’s main airport becomes battleground for simulated Chinese invasion

<i>Ann Wang/Reuters</i><br/>Black Hawk helicopters prepare to land at Taoyuan International Airport as part of the annual Han Kuang military exercise on July 26.
Ann Wang/Reuters
Black Hawk helicopters prepare to land at Taoyuan International Airport as part of the annual Han Kuang military exercise on July 26.

By Wayne Chang and Kathleen Magramo, CNN

Taoyuan, Taiwan (CNN) — Taiwan’s Taoyuan International Airport became the scene of a simulated Chinese invasion on Wednesday for the first time ever as the island’s military conducted an anti-takeover drill to fend off any possible attack from Beijing.

The drill was designed to test the Taiwanese military’s cross-branch coordination and emergency response capabilities during a simulated Chinese invasion, the Ministry of National Defense previously said.

With military helicopters in the sky and soldiers on the tarmac, the drill at Taiwan’s busiest international gateway reflects how Taipei is preparing for multiple scenarios in the face of fears over China’s increased military intimidation – concerns which have amplified since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine began last year.

China’s ruling Communist Party claims the self-governing democracy of Taiwan as its territory despite never having controlled it, and has spent decades trying to isolate it diplomatically.

Beijing has not ruled out using force to take control of Taiwan, and has been putting growing military pressure on Taipei by sending aircraft into its self-declared air defense identification zone and warships in waters around the island.

Airports, civilian or otherwise, are primary targets, as was vividly displayed by Moscow’s ultimately unsuccessful attempt to seize Kyiv’s Hostomel Airport in the opening stages of their invasion last year.

At Taoyuan on Wednesday, soldiers wearing red helmets to mark themselves as simulated infiltrators engaged in a shootout drill with airport police. Firefighters also practiced putting out simulated fires.

Military choppers simulated flying over the airport and deploying enemy troops on the tarmac. As they approached an airport building, they exchanged fire along the way with the Taiwanese military defending the facility and those hiding in makeshift covers.

The drills, which lasted for 30 minutes, wrapped up as the Taiwanese military practiced clearing out residual enemy forces, brandishing Taiwan’s flag in the end to signify their simulated successful defense of the airport.

The airport drill was newly added to the Han Kuang military exercise held annually since 1984 and involving all branches of Taiwan’s military – including its reserve forces – in an effort to boost overall defense capabilities.

Airspace control measures were imposed during the drill, with planes temporarily prohibited from landing or taking off, a Taoyuan International Airport spokesperson told CNN.

There was “no major impact” on passengers after the airport adjusted schedules for eight flights, the spokesperson added.

Elsewhere, Taiwan’s military canceled some Han Kuang exercises as Typhoon Doksuri made landfall in the northern Philippines on Wednesday.

The storm’s outer bands are beginning to impact eastern Taiwan, according to the island’s Central Weather Bureau and is set to press on toward the island and China in the coming days.

Taiwan’s Air Force decided to call of the drills at Taitung’s Fengnian airport on its eastern shores on Tuesday due to “safety concerns” as the typhoon approached, the Ministry of National Defense said in a statement Monday.

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