Emergency workers on a Taiwan-controlled island next to China’s coast practiced responding to a simulated Chinese attack on Thursday, a little more than a week after Beijing staged war games around the sensitive Taiwan Strait.
The Matsu Islands, close to China’s Fuzhou city, have been controlled by the government in Taipei since defeated Republic of China forces fled to Taiwan in 1949 after losing a civil war with Mao Zedong’s communists.
Often shelled by China during the height of the Cold War, Matsu is today a fashionable destination for tourists drawn to its rugged beauty.
But its closeness to the Chinese coast means Taiwan’s government is well aware of the danger Matsu would face should war break out, as Beijing presses Taiwan to accept its sovereignty claims.
The drills on Matsu’s main island of Nangan are part of Taiwan’s annual Minan civil defense exercises, and this year’s scenario for Matsu imagines a date in August 2025 when China first cuts off and then attacks the islands.
Ambulances and fire engines raced around Nangan’s power station, the site of the exercises, spraying water on fires and evacuating the wounded.
“If the situation between Taiwan and China becomes more tense, I believe that all colleagues on the response team will know where they should be,” county magistrate Wang Chung-ming told reporters.
“In time of war, the army will be in charge of fighting, while we are in charge of support and logistics,” he said.
Matsu’s vulnerability was underscored in February when the two undersea cables connecting the islands were cut, possibly by civilian Chinese ships, disconnecting the 14,000 people who live there from the internet.
Matsu does have a military garrison, though far fewer troops are based there now than during the decades following 1949.
“It doesn’t help to be afraid,” said Tsai Chen-han, 24, who took part in the drill. “The goal of this is make people stay alert and not to become complacent while leading their everyday lives.”
Copyright 2023 Thomson/Reuters