Beijing, Jul 16 (efe-epa).- Two Taiwanese soldiers died on Thursday in a helicopter crash during military exercises, including a simulated invasion attempt from China.
The tragedy took place during a five-day drill aimed to test how the Asian island’s armed forces would repel a coastal invasion from its giant neighbor.
A military OH-58D helicopter crashed at an air base in Hsinchu, northern Taiwan, at around 3.30pm local time, according to national news agency CNA.
The aircraft burst into flames and both soldiers on board were rushed to hospital where they died.
They have been identified as the pilot and co-pilot on the helicopter, Army Major Chien Jen-chuan and Captain Kao Chia-lung, respectively, Army Command Headquarters told CNA.
The annual military drills, called Han Kuang, are being carried out between July 13 and 17.
Thursday’s exercise took place on Jianan beach, to the west of the island, and saw more than 8,000 troops, including 800 reservists, take part.
It was the first time that some of Taiwan’s 22 combined arms battalions had seen action, according to reports in the local press.
The combined battalions were created in September and bring together soldiers and officers from different military branches, joined by snipers, drones and missile operators for the first time.
Taiwan’s military police also carried out a mock reaction on Thursday to an attempt by foreign forces to take over the international airport in the capital, Taipei.
Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen, who attended the exercises, said that national security rests on the commitment of the armed forces, which “represent the core of national defense.”
Local media also reported this week that at least two Chinese spy ships camouflaged as civilian boats had been detected and were moved away from the area where live-fire exercises were being conducted when a Taiwanese military ship approached.
Taiwan has been considered a rebellious province by China since 1949 and the relationship between Beijing and Taipei has worsened in recent years.
China has stated on several occasions that the reunification of Taiwan is inevitable and that if Taipei does not agree to join as an autonomous region then it could not rule out the use of force to achieve this. EFE-EPA