Taiwan has begun targeting Chinese drones flying over its outlying islands for the first time, highlighting the risk that Beijing’s military pressure on Taipei could lead to actual conflict.
Soldiers on Kinmen, a Taiwanese-controlled island just off the Chinese city of Xiamen, shot at a Chinese drone for the first time on Tuesday afternoon, the army’s Kinmen Defence Command said. It said the uncrewed vehicle then flew away in the direction of Xiamen.
“According to procedure, we warn, report, try to expel with measures such as flares, and if that fails, we fire shots,” said Major General Chang Jung-shun, spokesperson for the command.
The more assertive approach comes as Taipei seeks to balance the risk of sparking outright conflict against its desire to block China from in effect demonstrating control over nearby waters and airspace or even Taiwanese territory.
“Such activities are presumably all part of Chinese grey-zone tactics to wear down Taiwan’s military,” said Franz-Stefan Gady, a senior fellow at the International Institute for Strategic Studies think-tank.
“While the military threat from small commercially-available unarmed drones is relatively minor, Taiwan still needs to find means to deter such activities lest it set a tactical precedent for larger, armed unmanned aerial vehicles entering the country’s airspace above Taiwanese military installations,” Gady said.
Earlier on Tuesday, President Tsai Ing-wen told troops in Penghu, an archipelago off Taiwan’s west coast: “The more the enemy provokes, the more calm we must be. We will not provoke disputes, and we will exercise self-restraint, but it does not mean that we will not counter.”
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