Taiwan fires Chinese drone over outer island for first time

Taiwan fires Chinese drone over outer island for first time

Taiwan has begun targeting Chinese drones flying over its outlying islands for the first time, underscoring the risk that Beijing’s military pressure on Taipei could lead to outright conflict.

Soldiers from Kinmen, a Taiwan-held island just outside the Chinese city of Xiamen, fired at a Chinese drone for the first time on Tuesday afternoon, the Kinmen Army Defense Command said. He added that the unmanned vehicle then flew towards Xiamen.

“According to the procedure, we warn, report, try to expel with measures such as flares, and if that fails, we fire shots,” said spokesman Major General Chang Jung-shun. of command.

The more assertive approach comes as Taipei seeks to balance the risk of igniting outright conflict against its desire to prevent China from demonstrating effective control over waters and airspace near or even in the territory. Taiwanese.

“Such activities are likely part of China’s gray area tactics to wear down the Taiwanese military,” said Franz-Stefan Gady, a senior fellow at the International Institute for Strategic Studies think tank.

“Although the military threat from small commercially available unarmed drones is relatively minor, Taiwan has yet to find ways to deter such activities, lest it set a tactical precedent for larger armed unmanned aerial vehicles. entering the country’s airspace over Taiwanese military installations,” Gady said. said.

Earlier on Tuesday, President Tsai Ing-wen told troops in Penghu, an archipelago off the west coast of Taiwan: “The more the enemy provokes, the calmer we must be. We won’t cause disputes and we’ll show restraint, but that doesn’t mean we won’t counter.

Earlier this month, China conducted an unprecedented week of military exercises in response to a visit to Taipei by US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. The drills included firing missiles over Taiwan proper for the first time, sailing closer to the island than ever before, and flying several military-grade unmanned vehicles over Kinmen.

Since the drills officially ended on August 10, the Taiwanese military has reported several civilian drone incursions over military installations on Kinmen and adjacent islets and waters. The Ministry of Defense recorded one of these overflights on Saturday, Sunday and Monday. On Tuesday, he said four unmanned vehicles appeared over Kinmen and the surrounding area.

Analysts said unmanned aerial vehicles, or UAVs, have changed the dynamics of initiating or developing a conflict because they allow military systems to be deployed without the risk of casualties.

“They’re a tool that allows a lot more flexibility to the deployed force in terms of managing escalation dynamics,” said Jake Harrington, an analyst at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington think tank.

Over the past week, images of such drone flights showing Taiwanese soldiers looking upwards, running, pointing their weapons and even throwing rocks have appeared on Chinese social media.

According to senior Taiwanese government officials, responding to drone incursions is one of the priority areas of a review the administration is conducting of China’s increased military activity.

Analysts said drones flying over military installations would meet the hostile intent criteria under which Taiwanese unit commanders had the right and obligation to defend themselves, but not necessarily have to. tear down.

“Taiwan can deploy electronic warfare capabilities“, said Gady, citing technology that could force a drone to land or return to its remote or home point.

In May, the Taiwanese military approved a $146 million investment in anti-drone defense systems for its bases, but the installation is not yet complete. The Ministry of Defense also plans to deploy a locally developed system to counter unmanned aircraft systems from next year.

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