The Taiwanese military reportedly opened fire at a Chinese drone that entered a restricted air space just hours after President Tsai Ing-wen gave the order to take “strong countermeasures” against China’s provocations.
Kinmen County’s defense command announced on Tuesday that they had opened fire at the drone after it entered restricted air space over Erdan Island in Lieyu Township, Kinmen County, before 6 p.m. “The defense forces issued warnings in accordance with protocol. Because the drone continued to hover over the area, the defense forces opened fire and forced it to leave. The drone flew towards Xiamen at around 6 p.m.,” the defense command said in a statement. It was unclear if the drones that entered Taiwanese air space were controlled by the People’s Liberation Army (PLA). State-owned tabloid Global Times claimed the unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) spotted on the Taiwan-controlled island were civilian drones.
The Tuesday incident marked the first time the Taiwanese military has fired warning shots amid the height of tensions with China.
Taiwan Defense Minister Chiu Kuo-cheng did not give specific details about the military’s move to counter the incursions when reporters asked him about Tuesday’s incident during a press conference.
Instead, he told them that the military would act based on the principles of self-defense, saying, “Don’t make a fuss then when I set off some firecrackers to scare away some sparrows.”
The Tuesday encounter was not the first time the Taiwanese military has had to drive a Chinese drone away. On Aug. 27, a video of a drone close to a military outpost in Lieyu Township began circulating on Weibo.
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Days before that, another drone was spotted over the Lieyu Garrison Battalion on one of the islands of Kinmen on Aug. 16. A video shared on Weibo shows guards at the outpost throwing rocks at the UAV to drive it away. Pictures taken by the drone — later confirmed by Taiwanese officials as having been operated by the PLA — showing two soldiers stationed on the island began circulating on Chinese social media.
Commenting on the drone activities on the island, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said, “Chinese drones flying over China’s territory — what’s there to be surprised at?”
In the last month alone, the Taiwanese military has documented 23 sightings of Chinese drones flying over its airspace in Kinmen County, according to reports.
Speaking to CNA, Lo Cheng-fang, chief executive officer of GEOSAT Aerospace & Technology Inc., said Taiwan should not hold back on its counter-drone measures such as drone jammers when dealing with Chinese drone incursions.
Lo added that the worst thing Taiwan could do when facing China’s “gray zone” tactics – a strategy in which coercive actions are performed by non-state or non-military personnel – is to do nothing. Lo explained that this would only encourage China’s aggression.
The United States is also looking to offer Taiwan a $1.1 billion arms sale package amid tensions with China, Politico reported. The package will include “60 AGM-84L Harpoon Block II missiles for $355 million, 100 AIM-9X Block II Sidewinder tactical air-to-air missiles for $85.6 million and $655.4 million for a surveillance radar contract extension.”
Although the Biden administration is already planning to send the proposal to Congress for approval, the report noted that there could be some delay due to the “ongoing congressional recess.”
China’s military drills near Taiwan’s waters started after U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) visited the island nation in early August.