Taiwan Holds Air Raid Drill as Tensions With China Soar

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As the world focused on Russia’s brutal war in Ukraine, people across northern Taiwan were ordered to stay indoors as the island’s annual air-raid drill began Monday. This was not a false alarm but part of an exercise designed to prepare for the day — believed by many in Taiwan to be drawing closer by the hour — when China launches a full-scale invasion.

Cities across northern Taiwan, including its capital Taipei, halted all traffic as shops closed their shutters and police directed vehicles and pedestrians to find shelter. The mournful wail of air-raid sirens echoed over the city while residents received an “air raid alert” via text message asking them to evacuate to safety immediately.

The drill, codenamed Wan An No. 46, lasted 30 minutes and was designed to test the public’s responses during an air attack, said Chu Yu-ming, head of the Ministry of the Interior’s emergency response office. He added that the drills were also meant to show citizens how quickly they could be moved from their homes to safety zones.

This year’s exercises, which started Sunday, are more intensive than usual as the government steps up preparations in the event of a Chinese attack. Tensions between Taiwan and China have been high recently, with Beijing sending dozens of warplanes into the island’s self-declared air defense identification zone (ADIZ) over the past year.

While China insists that its military activities are aimed at proving its ability to defend itself, the real reason is to pressure Taiwan into accepting Beijing’s claim of sovereignty over the island. This is a critical component of the strategic aims of President Xi Jinping, who is seeking a third five-year term at a Communist Party congress later this year.

Chu added that the United States should continue to stand with Taiwan and firmly reject any attempt by Beijing to assert its influence over the island. Washington is aware of the risks of a conflict between China and Taiwan but also understands that its interests are best served by keeping China’s hands off the island.

A Chinese attack would have direct costs for the U.S., Japan, and other regional allies that support Taiwan and the rest of the international community. It would also have a destabilizing impact on the region and beyond, he added.

Businesses operating in China, Taiwan, or the broader Asia-Pacific region will watch developments closely. However, given that the true intentions of Beijing are unknown, and the costs of shifting supply chains or divesting from China will be substantial, most will adopt a wait-and-see approach in the hopes that a crisis never materializes.

Taiwan’s government has made it straightforward to use all available weapons to protect its people and territory in case of a hostile takeover from Beijing. However, the country’s economy will suffer significantly if removed from the outside world.

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