Taiwan lodges protest with China over military drill

TAIPEI (AFP) - Taiwan said Friday (July 24) it had filed a protest with China over a military exercise it slammed for portraying the island as a target, despite improved ties between the two former bitter rivals.

Chinese state channel CCTV broadcast a video clip earlier this month showing fully armed soldiers of the People's Liberation Army running towards a red building with a silhouette similar to that of Taiwan's Presidential Office.

The footage has sparked a backlash from the island's media and politicians because of the similarities to the building in the heart of the capital Taipei.

It came against growing public concern over China's growing influence on Taiwan under the current Beijing-friendly Kuomintang leadership.

"Through the contact mechanism, we've lodged a solemn protest," Wu Mei-hung, spokeswoman for Taiwan's Mainland Affairs Council, told AFP Friday.

"This hurt the feelings of people on both sides of the Taiwan Strait and it is unacceptable to people in Taiwan or the international community," said defence ministry spokesman David Lo.

The Chinese authorities played down the event.

"These are regular annual exercises. They are not aimed at any particular target," China's defence ministry said in a statement to AFP.

Although ties between China and Taiwan have improved markedly since Ma took office in 2008, fears of a Chinese invasion remain.

Taiwan split from China in 1949 after a civil war, but China sees it as part of its territory awaiting reunification - by force if necessary.

According to Taiwan's defence ministry, China has more than 1,500 ballistic and cruise missiles trained on the island.