TAICHUNG, Taiwan - Taiwan simulated repelling an invading force on Thursday and used civilian-operated drones for the first time as part of annual military drills on the self-ruled island amid escalating tensions with China.
The drills were presided over by Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen and watched by the visiting king of eSwatini, the African kingdom formerly known as Swaziland at the center of a diplomatic tug-of-war between Taiwan and China.
China claims self-ruled Taiwan as its sacred territory, under its "one China" policy, and Beijing has never renounced the use of force to bring what it sees as a wayward province under its control.
China's air force has conducted a series of military maneuvers near the island in recent months that Taipei has denounced as intimidation.
"Our armed forces' combat effectiveness is the guarantee of our national security. It is the flourishing basis of society, and it is the back-up force for our values of democracy and freedom," Tsai said at the Han Kuang drills in the central Taiwanese city of Taichung.
"So long as our armed forces are around, Taiwan will surely be around," she added.
More than 4,000 personnel and over 1,500 pieces of equipment were deployed in the annual exercise, with drones flying overhead to provide battlefield surveillance and construction workers practicing repairs to an airbase runway.