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Ma takes quick inspection tour as drills conclude

By Joseph Yeh--President Ma Ying-jeou yesterday wrapped up his inspection of Taiwan's annual Han Kuang military exercises with a 30-minute tour of a military site in the northern county of Taoyuan.

During his visit from 7:30 to 8 a.m., Ma was briefed by military officials on the progress of the drills, Taiwan's most important war games involving its Army, Air Force and Navy, which concluded later the same day.

“I have other appointments to keep,” he told reporters when explaining his short visit to the site.

Ma was accompanied by several high-ranking officials, including Defense Minister Kao Hua-chu, National Security Council Secretary-General Hu Wei-jen and Presidential Office Secretary-General Tseng Yung-chuan.

The trip marked the president's second inspection tour to the exercises since he returned Wednesday from a 12-day trip to three of Taiwan's allies in Africa — Burkina Faso, The Gambia and Swaziland.

His absence at the start of the exercises Monday drew criticism from opposition lawmakers, who accused him of neglecting national defense.

It was reportedly the first time a Taiwan president was away on an overseas tour since the large-scale exercises for the nation's military were first launched in 1984.

The annual drills were first held with the aim of honing Taiwan's response to a possible military attack by China.

400-km Relocation

Yesterday's exercise focused on a massive relocation of troops from southern Taiwan to the north, according to 298th Brigade Commander Major General Chu Yung-yaun.

Chu's brigade, which was responsible for defending southern Taiwan, moved from the southernmost Pingtung County earlier this week and arrived at the military site in northern Taoyuan yesterday.

The relocation covered a distance of over 400 kilometers and was reportedly the longest-distance relocation of heavily armored troops in Taiwan ever performed during major drills.

Some 1,800 troops and 340-plus military vehicles were deployed all the way from Pingtung to help join the simulated battle in Taoyuan, which followed the scenario of an attempt by Chinese forces to occupy the island's northern regions, including the two airports in the area, the Ministry of National Defense (MND) said.

According to an earlier MND announcement, this year's Han Kuang exercises were split into two stages, with the around-the-clock weeklong military drills concluding yesterday and computer-aided war games set for July.

A total of 215,000 military personnel were involved in the exercises this year, it said.

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President Ma Ying-jeou, third left, shakes hands with a senior military officer during his inspection tour to the Han Kuang drills at a military site in the northern county of Taoyuan, yesterday.

(CNA)

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