TAIPEI (CNA) — Two Chinese reconnaissance vessels were seen off the east coast of Taiwan on Wednesday, during a live-fire exercise by Taiwan’s armed forces, a military source told CNA.
When the presence of the two Chinese spy ships was detected, a Taiwan Navy warship was dispatched to monitor and deter them, and they eventually sailed away, said the source, who asked not to be named because they were not authorized to speak on the issue.
At the time, all branches of Taiwan’s military were preparing to engage in a live-fire exercise at Jiupeng military base in the southeastern county of Pingtung, during which the country’s major missile systems were to be test fired, according to the source.
The weapons fired from the coastal base included the indigenous Hsiung Feng II and III anti-ship missiles and Tien Kung I and III anti-tactical ballistic missiles, and the U.S.-made Harpoon missiles, Patriot PAC-2 missiles, and Standard Missile 1 (SM-1), according to the military.
The drill was part of Taiwan’s Han Kuang series of exercises, its largest annual war games involving all branches of its armed forces, which are being held July 13-17.
Prior to Wednesday, Taiwan’s military had spotted the two spy ships, disguised as civilian vessels, sailing some 40 nautical miles off Orchid Island, which lies east of Taitung County, the source told CNA.
On Wednesday morning, just before the missile exercise began, the two Chinese vessels were again seen approaching Orchid Island, the source added.
Taiwan’s military suspected that the two spy ships were collecting intelligence on the weapon systems and missiles used during the live-fire exercise in Pingtung, which simulated Taiwan’s counterattack against a Chinese invasion by sea, according to the source.
The Ching Chiang-class patrol ship dispatched by Taiwan’s Navy has electronic warfare equipment that can monitor Chinese vessels and block any efforts to obtain intelligence, the source said, adding that the two Chinese vessels left the area at about 8 a.m.
The live-fire drills will end Friday, and the second stage of the annual Han Kuang exercises, which comprises computerized war games, will be held Sept. 14-18.