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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Ma dismisses connection between drill, Hu's U.S. visit

ROC Central News Agency

2011/01/18 14:51:04

By Emmanuelle Tzeng and Alex Jiang

Taipei, Jan. 18 (CNA) President Ma Ying-jeou dismissed speculation that the largest-scale live-fire air defense exercise held in Taiwan in recent years was timed to coincide with a visit by China's president to the United States on Tuesday.

"There is absolutely no connection, " Ma said when asked by reporters while observing the missile test-firing exercise at the Jiupeng air base in southern Taiwan's Pingtung County.

The president said the military fired off "defensive missiles" as part of the routine training exercise, and he stressed Taiwan was not pursuing an arms race but was simply taking the necessary precautions.

The drill's timing coincided with the first day of Chinese President Hu Jintao's four-day state visit to the U.S., during which he will meet with President Barack Obama at the White House.

Meanwhile, Ma expressed his dissatisfaction with the drill and said " there is still room for improvement." He also requested an immediate review of the exercise.

The military fired off a total of 19 missiles -- the greatest number in recent years -- six of which failed to successfully hit their targets.

Among the 12 units involved in Tuesday's drill were the Army's 602 Air Cavalry Brigade, the Marine Corps 77 Brigade and the Air Force 427 Wing.

The drills covered combat tactics, combat strategies and air counterattacks, and involved the test-firing of a variety of missiles, including Tien-kung, Hawk, Sparrow, Stinger, vehicle-launched Tien-chien I short-range, and air-to-air missiles.

The drill was open to media coverage to help raise security awareness among the public, the ministry said.

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