Authorities in Taiwan sent out an alert to its citizens in several parts of the country as the military carried out an air-raid exercise Monday amid growing threats from China.
A “missile alert” was sent to the residents via text message, urging them to evacuate to safety immediately. The people were ordered to stay indoors and roads were emptied in many cities, including capital Taipei.
“It is necessary to make preparations in the event of a war,” Taipei mayor Ko Wen-je said in a speech after overseeing drills, according to Reuters.
The exercise is named Wan An, which means everlasting peace.
Tensions between Taiwan and China have intensified, especially after Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24. Following Russia’s attack on Kyiv, China stepped up military manoevres around the island.
“Chinese military planes have frequently harassed Taiwan in recent years and there’s even the outbreak of the Russia-Ukraine war in February, these incidents remind us that we need to be vigilant in peace time,” Ko said.
As part of the exercise, the police in Taipei directed vehicles to move to the side of the road and people were told to seek shelter. Shops and restaurants were closed, while firefighters practiced putting out a fire sparked by a missile attack.
After 30 minutes of the siren, the exercise was called off.
China has issued several warnings to Taiwan as well as the U.S. in recent times. The U.S. recently expressed concern that China may impose a no-fly zone over Taiwan and send jets into the island’s Air Defense Identification Zone if House Speaker Nancy Pelosi plans her Taipei visit. China issued a stern warning, saying Pelosi’s Taiwan visit would violate the one-China principle and harm China’s sovereignty.
“When everyone received the text message, do not panic,” Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen said to the public on Facebook on Monday. “Citizens, please evacuate according to the guidance.”
Last week, former U.S. defense secretary Mark Esper was informed about Taiwan’s concerns about the speed of arms sales and the country’s need to gain better access to weapons like portable missiles. Esper, who arrived in Taipei last Monday, said he would convey Taiwan’s concerns to Washington.
The island nation has previously spoken out about problems accessing some U.S. weapons it has on order. These weapons included shoulder-fired Stinger anti-aircraft missiles. The increased demand for the missiles in Ukraine has resulted in a shortage in supply.