PINGTUNG, TAIWAN (REUTERS) – Tanks pounded targets and fighter jets roared overhead on Wednesday (Sept 7) as Taiwan’s military carried out its latest combat drills after weeks of sabre-rattling by giant neighbour China.

China, which claims democratically ruled Taiwan as its own territory, has been holding exercises around the island since a visit to Taipei last month by US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Taiwan, which rejects China’s sovereignty claims, has repeatedly stressed its calm reaction to Beijing’s activities, but that it also has the resolve and ability to defend itself if needed.

“Ground combat readiness training is an essential duty of the armed forces and is also something that we have to do each day and every moment,” Defence Ministry spokesman Sun Li-fang told reporters on a government-organised visit to Pingtung in Taiwan’s far south to see the drills.

“Regarding defence operations in Taiwan and its outlying islands, we conduct our exercises with the attitude of reacting to threats according to terrain and being able to fight everywhere to complete our duty of increasing war preparedness,”he added.

Taiwan’s armed forces are well-equipped but dwarfed by China’s.

President Tsai Ing-wen has been overseeing a modernisation programme and has made increasing defence spending a priority.