TAIWAN/CHINA: Taiwan fired warning shots at a Chinese drone that buzzed an offshore islet on Tuesday, shortly after President Tsai Ing-wen said she had ordered Taiwan’s military to take “strong countermeasures” against what she called Chinese provocations.
It was the first time such an incident had prompted warning shots amid heightened tensions between China and Taiwan, which Beijing claims as its territory. Taiwan strongly disputes China’s claims to sovereignty.
The drone headed back to China after the shots were fired, a military spokesman said.Taiwan has complained that Chinese drones have repeatedly flown very close to small groups of islands it controls near China’s coast, most recently near the Kinmen Islands, as part of Beijing’s military exercises.
China conducted drills around the island following a visit by US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi this month.
Kinmen Defense Command spokesman Chang Jung-shun said live rounds were fired just before 6 p.m. (1000 GMT) of the drone approaching Erdan islet, with flares being used earlier. The drone then flew back to China, he said.
There was no immediate response from China. China’s foreign ministry on Monday dismissed Taiwan’s drone complaints as nothing to fuss about.
Footage of at least two drone missions has been widely shared on Chinese social media, showing Taiwanese soldiers at their posts and in one case throwing rocks at the drone.
Tsai criticized China for its drones and other “grey zone” warfare activities on Tuesday while visiting armed forces in the Penghu Islands.
“I want to tell everyone that the more the enemy provokes, the calmer we must be,” Tsai told naval officers. “We won’t stir up controversy and exercise restraint, but that doesn’t mean we won’t count.”
She said she had ordered the Ministry of Defense to take “necessary and strong countermeasures” to defend their airspace. She did not specify.
At their closest point, the Kinmen Islands are only a few hundred meters (yards) from Chinese territory, opposite the Chinese cities of Xiamen and Quanzhou.
Officers told reporters accompanying Tsai that warships and fighter jets stationed in Penghu – which lies in the Taiwan Strait closer to Taiwan than China – have been moving out armed with live ammunition since the drills began in China this month, although they have not opened fire.
The frigate’s captain, Lee Kuangping, said they regularly exchanged radio warnings with Chinese warships.“Sometimes Communist Chinese fishing boats appear near the training zone and provocatively say ‘hit them, hit them!’,” Lee said.
In a Facebook post citing Navy Commander Penghu Tsai, he said ships from both sides had come within 500-600 yards of each other and that Taiwanese ships were “strictly monitoring” their Chinese counterparts.
China’s military unit in charge of the area adjacent to Taiwan, the Eastern Theater Command of the People’s Liberation Army, released a video from the Penghu Islands on August 15, apparently taken by the Chinese Air Force.
Taiwan’s military called the video information warfare, accusing China of exaggeration and saying it was not true that Chinese forces had approached the islands.
Taiwan’s armed forces are well-equipped but dwarfed by China’s. Tsai oversaw the modernization program and made increasing defence spending a priority.
Taiwan’s Defense Minister Chiu Kuo-cheng said on Tuesday when asked about Chinese drone activities that he could not provide details on what they would do to counter the incursions, but said the military would respond based on the principle of “self-defence”.
“Don’t make a fuss if I set off some firecrackers to scare some sparrows,” he told reporters in Taipei in a veiled warning to China.
Also Read: US Sends Two Warships Through Taiwan Strait