Taiwan’s military today for the first time shot down an unidentified civilian drone that entered its airspace and near a small island off the Chinese coast. This came after the government promised to take strict measures to deal with such cases of trespassing into Taiwan’s airspace, reports Reuters.
China considers Taiwan as its territory. The democratically elected government in Taipei strongly rejects this view. Beijing has been conducting military exercises near Taiwan since the beginning of this month. The maneuvers are in response to a visit to Taipei by US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
Taiwan’s government has said it will not provoke or heighten tensions in the area, but Taiwanese authorities have been angered recently by Chinese drones frequently flying over islands controlled by Taiwan and located near China’s coast.
The Jingmen Islands Command said the drone entered the airspace over Shu Island (Lion Island) shortly after noon local time. Jingmen is a group of islands under Taiwanese control located opposite the Chinese cities of Xiamen and Quanzhou.
Troops on the island tried to issue a warning and get the drone to leave the area, but that didn’t happen. The aircraft was shot down and fell into the sea. Taiwan fired a warning shot at a drone for the first time on Tuesday, shortly after President Tsai Ing-wen ordered the military to take “stern countermeasures” against “Chinese provocations”.
China’s foreign ministry on Monday dismissed Taiwan’s drone complaints as unfounded.
Qiu Taishan, deputy head of Taiwan’s Mainland China Affairs Council, told reporters in Taipei that Taiwan had the legal right to take “necessary defensive measures” and Chinese planes were not allowed into Jingmen airspace. The measures include forcing planes to leave the area or land.
In a statement to the armed forces earlier today, Tsai was quoted as saying by her office that the PRC was using drones and other “gray zone” tactics to try to intimidate Taiwan. Tsai reiterated that Taiwan will not provoke disputes, but that does not mean it will not take countermeasures.
Taiwan has controlled Jingmen, just a few hundred meters from mainland China, since 1949, when the defeated ROC government fled to Taipei after losing a civil war to the Communists led by Mao Zedong.
Taiwan’s defense ministry said 14 Chinese fighter jets crossed the median line in the Taiwan Strait, the unofficial buffer zone between the conflicting countries.
At the height of the Cold War, China regularly shelled Jingmen and other Taiwanese-held islands off the Chinese coast that are now tourist destinations.