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Taiwan and Singapore to hold joint military exercise: report

AFP | March 21, 2005

Taiwan and Singapore will hold military exercises for the first time in three decades, a move expected to anger China, a report said Monday.

The drill involving a Taiwan motorized infantry battalion and a Singapore brigade being trained on the island will be staged in the southern county of Hengchun from late March to early April, the Liberty Times said on its website, Libertytimes.com.tw.

Aside from artillery and tanks, Taiwan will mobilize SuperCobra attack helicopters and Singapore will deploy Super Puma helicopters, it said.

Taiwan's defense ministry declined to comment on the sensitive report while China demanded an explanation from Singapore.

"The Chinese side is firmly opposed to countries which have diplomatic relations with China carrying out any type of official or military contact with Taiwan," the foreign ministry in Beijing said in a statement.

"We have requested the relevant country clarify the above report."

Singapore has been operating three training camps in Taiwan under a military cooperation program known as "Operation Hsing Kuang" (Starlight).

Singapore recognizes Beijing but maintains close links with Taiwan, which sent air force and naval officers to Singapore during the city-state's early years of independence in 1965.

The report said the United States and Japan would send military advisers to the exercise.

In a joint statement last month, Washington and Tokyo said easing tensions in the Taiwan Strait was part of their "common strategic objectives" and urged China, which has 700 missiles massed opposite the island, "to improve transparency of its military affairs."

The statement angered Beijing, which slammed the allies' move as "inappropriate."

Beijing has been increasingly wary of Washington and Tokyo's close strategic partnership, seeing it as a potential threat to its goal of eventually reunifying with Taiwan by force if necessary.

Taiwan and China split in 1949 at the end of a civil war.

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