Taiwanese military personnel showed confidence in the face of a potential Chinese invasion, demonstrating some of the contested island’s most powerful anti-aircraft weapons to the media.
“Our regular training is prepared for all-day, 24-hours, missile operations,” a member of Taiwan’s military told a group of reporters Wednesday. “When the Chinese military acted, we were already well-prepared…. We were not nervous at all.”
The comments came during a demonstration of some of the island’s most formidable defensive weaponry on Taiwan’s Matsu islands, a chain situated just over six miles from China’s coast. Despite the military’s confidence in the face of the recent escalation of tensions in the region, many locals on the island fear it would become the front line if a Chinese invasion ever came to fruition.
“I don’t feel particularly safe – after all this island, Dongyin, would be the front line of the battlefield,” Dora Liu, a resident of the island, told Reuters. “A small island like ours could be taken down in a moment… If there is a war, there would be no place to hide. No matter how many tunnels we have, if they really occupied us, there would be no use in having tunnels.”
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Such fears have suddenly seemed more real in the aftermath of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s recent trip to Taiwan, a visit that China viewed as an escalation. Beijing considers the self-governing island part of its own territory.
China responded by running a series of large military exercises in the Taiwan Strait aimed at showing its ability to strike at a moment’s notice, a situation that only continued to escalate after five more U.S. lawmakers made a trip to Taiwan less than two weeks after Pelosi.
The Matsu islands represent a potential initial target in a Chinese invasion, having been the site of shellings during a time of amplified tensions in the 1950s and 1960s. While the islands are now home to a thriving tourism industry, locals are increasingly cognizant of their vulnerability.
“I think a war is possible,” Chien Chun-te, who owns a restaurant on Nangan Island, told Reuters. “But I hope people in the two countries, and also both the governments, can communicate more. Having no communication would only lead to hatred.”
But like the military, some Taiwanese citizens take a more defiant approach. Huang Tzu-chuan, who spent a month working on the islands, drew parallels to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine earlier this year.
“We feel our relationship between Taiwan and China is just the same as theirs,” Huang told Reuters.
A Chinese invasion, like the Russian invasion, would force the Taiwanese to defend their country.
“If one day it really happens, I will of course fight for my country,” Huang said.