The Taiwanese military has for the first time shot down an unidentified drone off the coast of China after complaining for weeks about Chinese drone incursions.
The drone flew on Thursday noon into restricted waters over the Shi islet in Kinmen County, a group of islands governed by Taiwan just a few miles from China, the Taiwanese military’s Kinmen Defense Command said in a statement. It was downed after attempts to repel it failed, the command said.
The action came after Taiwan’s leader vowed on Tuesday to take “strong countermeasures” against what she called Chinese provocations following the recent incursions of Chinese civilian drones that filmed Taiwanese soldiers at their posts.
In one instance, Taiwanese soldiers responded by throwing rocks at the unmanned vehicle, as seen in footage that went viral on Chinese social media last month.
Taiwanese authorities have reported Chinese drones flying above islands it controls just several miles off the nearest Chinese city, as tensions rose over U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan in early August.
The U.S. and Taiwan do not have a formal diplomatic relationship, but Beijing saw the trip by Pelosi, the most senior U.S. official to visit Taiwan in 25 years, as a show of support for the island democracy’s formal independence.
China has since conducted its largest-ever military drills encircling Taiwan, in exercises that effectively simulated a blockade. Generations of leaders, including current President Xi Jinping, have vowed to retake Taiwan and have not ruled out doing so by force.
Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen has called some of China’s drone missions “gray zone” warfare. She said Taiwan would exercise self-restraint but would also take necessary countermeasures.
On Tuesday, the Taiwanese defense ministry said it fired flares to drive away three unidentified drones flying near Kinmen County. The vehicles flew away toward China but one returned and prompted Taiwanese forces to fire warning shots, the ministry said.
China has dismissed Taiwan’s complaints about Chinese drones flying close to its offshore islands. “Chinese drones flying over China’s territory, what’s there to be surprised at?” Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said Monday.
In a statement later that day, Taiwan’s foreign ministry said, “Those who come uninvited are called thieves.”