More Taiwanese Seek Gun Training as War in Ukraine Eases Chinese Threat | The larger picture

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From tour guides to tattoo artists, some in Taiwan are taking shooting lessons for the first time in their lives as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine raises anxiety that giant neighbor China will make a move similar on Democratic Island.

China’s growing military pressure on the island it claims as its own, combined with the conflict in Ukraine, has sparked a debate over how to bolster defenses in Taiwan, which debates whether to extend military service obligatory.

. New Taipei City, Taiwan. Reuters/Ann Wang

A trainee pretends to be injured while others give him first aid.

Since the start of the war in Ukraine three months ago, bookings have almost quadrupled for courses in airsoft shooting or low-powered devices designed to fire non-metallic projectiles, a company official said. training in combat techniques in Taiwan.

“More and more people are coming to participate,” said Max Chiang, general manager of Polar Light, which is based in a suburb of the capital, Taipei.

. New Taipei City, Taiwan. Reuters/Ann Wang

A trainer checks if a female trainee’s airsoft handgun is correctly placed in the holster.

Some of those who came to the shooting range this year had never handled weapons before, he said, adding that the number had “tripled or quadrupled” since the start of the conflict in Ukraine, which Moscow calls a “special military operation”.

Some in Taiwan fear that China, which has never ruled out using force to bring the island under its control, is stepping up the pressure, taking advantage of a West distracted by efforts to prop up and equip Ukraine. in his response to Moscow.

. New Taipei City, Taiwan. Reuters/Ann Wang

A trainee aims his airsoft gun during a break.

Taiwan raised its alert level but reported no unusual military moves from Beijing.

Su Chun, a 39-year-old tattoo artist determined to learn how to use air guns, is among those bracing against a Chinese threat.

“I wanted to learn combat skills, including those that are not limited to the use of a firearm. Maybe skills to be able to react to any type of situation,” he said. he declares.

. New Taipei City, Taiwan. Reuters/Ann Wang

Tattoo artist Su Chun, 39, tattoos a client in his studio.

But the gunnery training would come in handy if the government called in reservists like him to repel a Chinese invasion, Su added.

“Most people don’t want to go to war, I don’t want to go to war either, but in the unfortunate event that it does happen, I’ll be mentally prepared.”

. New Taipei City, Taiwan. Reuters/Ann Wang

Personal trainer Chris Chen poses with an airsoft gun.

The use of airsoft weapons, popular for military simulation, is taught as a competitive sport in Taiwan, which tightly controls gun ownership, but many of the moves and tactics involved resemble combat skills, aiming posture.

The devices use compressed air to carry less dangerous projectiles, such as small plastic bullets, to their targets.

. New Taipei City, Taiwan. Reuters/Ann Wang

Trainees listen to their trainer about what to be alert to when entering a building with airsoft guns.

On a Sunday afternoon at the Taipei shooting range, dozens of students took to air guns for the first time as coaches explained safety guidelines and basic details.

There was an “urgent” need to learn more about defensive weapons after the war in Ukraine, said tour guide Chang Yu, who took the entry-level course with his wife.

. New Taipei City, Taiwan. Reuters/Ann Wang

The trainees work on a simulated hostage rescue mission.

“The Ukraine-Russia war has made the threat across the strait real,” said the 34-year-old in a bullet belt and glasses, referring to the waterway between Taiwan and China .

“It made us think about how we should prepare if this happens in Taiwan.”

The couple had assembled protective gear at the home, from pepper spray to an alarm system for intruders, he added.

. New Taipei City, Taiwan. Reuters/Ann Wang

A trainee practices entering a building with his airsoft gun.

Besides firearms training, some Taiwanese politicians have urged the public to start thinking about plans for survival at a time when most cities are without power or water for days.

Lin Ping-yu of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party, who is running for a council seat, said the war in Ukraine prompted him to prepare survival kits for his family, with emergency food and batteries , if worse.

. New Taipei City, Taiwan. Reuters/Ann Wang

Lin Ping-yu, 38, shows off one of his 12 airsoft guns.

“Think about how you can help yourself and others survive,” added Liu, the author of a book on China’s military threat.

“We are facing enormous risks. Risks of losing freedom and democracy, of losing everything in our daily lives.”

(Photo editing Kezia Levitas; Additional reporting Yimou Lee; Text editing Clarence

Fernandez; Layout Marta Montana)

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