TAIPEI, Taiwan, May 4 (UPI) -- An estimated 6,500 Taiwanese soldiers, including elite forces, have taken part in the Asian island's biggest war game exercise in more than a year.
The military exercise, officials said, was a simulated type of Chinese attack on Taiwan, lifting the veil on how Taipei's military would respond to its an attack by its estranged neighbor, despite improving ties.
The drill simulated massive air raids on Taiwan's major air bases, testing the island's ability to recover quickly from such a shock.
The war game exercise was designed, "to test our ability to repair runways as soon as possible so that fighter jets can takeoff should the air base be attacks," air force spokesman Lt. Gen. Pan Kung-hsiao told local media.
The troops, assisted by F-16 fighter jets and Super Cobra combat helicopters, staged the mock war games near Chialutang, a coastal village in southern Taiwan, which they were called to defend in a scenario of Chinese invasion.
If war were to break out, the Chialutang beaches would be a likely landing site for Chinese forces, military officials conceded.
Pilots and support staff drilled emergency procedures for four French-made Mirage fighter jets that took off within 6 minutes of notification. The scramble took place at a neighboring region where an estimated 400 soldiers were deployed to drill the quick airlift capabilities of special forces.
Taiwan last had similar military maneuvers in December 2008 although computerized war games were conducted last year.
The mock invasion drill came after a Chinese flotilla, including two submarines and eight other warships, staged separate exercises in the East China Sea near Okinawa, moving to the Pacific Ocean.
Those maneuvers -- the largest display of Chinese warships in the region -- triggered concern in Taiwan.
Relations between Taipei and Beijing had begun to thaw since Ma Ying-jeou of the China-friendly Kuomingtang Party came to power two years ago, promising to bolster bilateral trade and allowing the inflow of growing numbers of Chinese tourists.
Beijing, however, continues to regard Taiwan a wayward province since a split ensued after the 1949 civil war. It has repeatedly said it would use force against the island to bring it under its control.
China's naval buildup during the past decade has drawn concern among analysts in Taiwan and the West. China has yet to spell out the strategic rationale of the buildup, which experts suspect to be linked to China's aspiration of becoming a global naval power to protect its economic interests.