PENGHU: Taiwan fired warning shots at a Chinese drone which buzzed an offshore islet on Tuesday (Aug 29) shortly after President Tsai Ing-wen said she had ordered Taiwan’s military to take “strong countermeasures” against what she termed Chinese provocations.
It was the first time warning shots have been fired in such an incident amid a period of heightened tension between China and Taiwan, which Beijing views as its own territory. Taiwan strongly disputes China’s sovereignty claims.
The drone headed back to China after the shots were fired, a military spokesman said.
Taiwan has complained of Chinese drones repeatedly flying very close to small groups of islands it controls near China’s coast, most recently by the Kinmen islands, as part of military drills by Beijing.
China has carried out the exercises around the island after a visit by US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi this month.
Kinmen defence command spokesman Chang Jung-shun said the live rounds were fired just before 6pm at the drone which had approached Erdan islet, with flares being used previously. The drone then flew off back to China, he said.
There was no immediate response from China. On Monday, the Chinese Foreign Ministry dismissed Taiwan’s complaints about the drones as nothing “to make a fuss about”.
Footage of at least two drone missions showing Taiwanese soldiers at their posts, and in one case throwing rocks at a drone, have circulated widely on Chinese social media.
Speaking earlier on Tuesday while visiting the armed forces on the Penghu islands, Tsai criticised China for its drone and other “grey zone” warfare activity.
“I want to tell everyone that the more the enemy provokes, the more calm we must be,” Tsai told naval officers. “We will not provoke disputes, and we will exercise self-restraint, but it does not mean that we will not counter”.
She said she had ordered the defence ministry to take “necessary and strong countermeasures” to defend their airspace. She did not elaborate.
The Kinmen islands are at their closest point just a few hundred metres from Chinese territory, opposite China’s Xiamen and Quanzhou cities.
“HIT THEM, HIT THEM!”
Officers told reporters accompanying Tsai that warships and fighter jets based at Penghu – which lies in the Taiwan Strait closer to Taiwan than China – have been going out armed with live ammunition since China began its exercises this month though they have not opened fire.
Frigate captain Lee Kuang-ping said they had regularly traded radio warnings with Chinese warships.
“Sometimes near the drill zone communist Chinese fishing boats appear, and they provocatively say ‘hit them, hit them!'” Lee said.
On a Facebook post citing a navy commander in Penghu, Tsai said ships from both sides came as close as 500-600 yards to each other and Taiwan ships “strictly monitored” their Chinese counterparts.