Taiwan’s yearly Han Kuang Military exercises have begun for 2023. The Han Kuang Exercise (漢光演習) is the annual military exercise of the armed forces in Taiwan to prepare the military combat readiness in the event of an attack from the People’s Liberation Army of China. Typically, the exercise is divided into a war game simulation phase on a computer system, followed by a field exercise with live troops and equipment across Taiwan.
The Han Kuang exercises have been criticized in recent years for their frequent accidents. Since the Han Kuang was first conducted in 1984, there have been 14 major accidents resulting in at least 29 injuries and 15 deaths. Some older generation Taiwan residents speculate that the accident and death rate was even higher in the past but has been covered up.
The most recent incident occurred on July 23, 2023, when a faulty mortar shell exploded sending 9 Taiwan soldiers to the hospital.
On July 3, 2020, during the 36th Han Kuang exercise, two Taiwan Marines were killed when their boat capsized. A third marine committed suicide afterward from the trauma of losing his comrades.
On August 16, 2016, a tank fell off a bridge and into a river, killing the crew.
On May 23, 2007, a bomb was accidentally dropped on Jinshalun Beach in Checheng, injuring three fishermen.
On May 11, 2007, an F-5F fighter plane crashed in the Hukou camp area, killing 4 and injuring 9 people.
On July 20, 2006, a missile accidentally fell only 200 meters away from the viewing platform of the then-leader of Taiwan, Chen Shui-bian. There were no casualties.
The list of accidents is available online and goes on.
Preparing For a Futile Battle?
The military situation between Taiwan and the Chinese Mainland is currently very unbalanced, with a significant disparity in military capabilities. The Taiwan side is completely outclassed and outnumbered by the naval and air forces of China, with the defense minister of Taiwan admitting in 2023 that Taiwan's military can only defend the island for 2 weeks.
This has led many people in Taiwan to question the necessity of the Han Kuang Military Exercises at all. The recent conflict in Ukraine has served as a wake-up call for some Taiwanese individuals. The flower of youth has been destroyed in Ukraine and the tragic loss of many young lives raises many questions on whether it is wise for Taiwan to become a proxy for the United States. It is crucial for Taiwan to avoid following a similar path as Ukraine and instead prioritize peaceful cooperation with the Chinese Mainland.
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