Taiwan’s decision to shoot down a drone off the Chinese coast that flew over a Taiwanese-controlled island was the most “appropriate” action to take after repeated warnings, Taiwan Premier Su Tseng-chang said.
On Thursday, Taiwan’s military shot down the first unidentified civilian drone that entered its airspace near the outlying Kinmen islands that sit next door to China’s Xiamen city.
The drone was shot down after entering restricted airspace near the tiny Shiyu (Lion) islet, and crashed into the sea, according to Taiwan’s military.
Speaking to reporters on Friday, Su said Taiwan had repeatedly issued warnings and “asked them not to encroach on our doorstep”.
“They repeatedly ignored our warnings to leave and we had no choice but to exercise self-defence and shoot. This is the most appropriate reaction after repeated restraint and warnings,” he said.
China should exercise restraint, Su added.
“We will never provoke, and we will do the most appropriate thing to protect our land and our people,” he said.
China’s foreign ministry responded on Friday by accusing Taiwan’s ruling party of attempting to increase tension.
“The Democratic Progressive Party’s attempt to hype-up tensions does not mean anything,” ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said at a regular briefing, in response to a question about the shooting of the drone.
The Kinmen Defense Command said that flares and warning shots were fired but the drone maintained its position and was shot down just after noon on Thursday.
The command described the drone as being for “civilian use,” but did not say if it had been recovered or what weapon was used to bring it down.
The day before, Taiwan said it warned off drones hovering over three of the islands it occupies off the coast of the Chinese port city of Xiamen.
Nearly 450 Chinese military aircraft incursions into Taiwan’s air defence identification zone have occurred so far this year, according to the Taiwanese military.
Tension between Taipei and Beijing has increased since last month’s controversial visit to self-ruled Taiwan by US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi, which China responded to with more than a week of military live-fire drills in waters around the island.
Kitsch Liao Yen-fan, a military and cyber-affairs consultant for the Taiwanese think-tank Doublethink Lab, said that China’s military appears to be stress testing Taiwan’s defences with increased air incursions.
Such testing of defences also establishes a “new normal” for Taiwan in terms of its response to China, Liao said.
The downing of the drone followed after the Taiwanese government promised to take action to deal with an increase in such intrusions.
President Tsai Ing-wen said on Tuesday that she had ordered the military to take “strong countermeasures” against what she termed Chinese provocations. Shortly after, Taiwanese forces fired warning shots at a drone for the first time.
At least two videos of recent drone trips have circulated widely on Chinese social media, in one of which Taiwanese soldiers were seen throwing stones at the craft.
The premier, Su, said these videos were made for China’s “propaganda at home”, adding to the anger of Taiwan’s people.
China’s foreign ministry on Monday dismissed Taiwan’s complaints about drones as nothing “to make a fuss about”.
China views democratically governed Taiwan as its own territory, despite the strong objections of the government in Taipei.
Taiwan has controlled the Kinmen islands, which at its closest point is a few hundred metres (feet) from Chinese territory, since the defeated Republic of China government fled to Taipei after losing a civil war to Mao Zedong’s communists in 1949.
During the height of the Cold War, China regularly shelled Kinmen and other Taiwanese-held islands along the Chinese coast, and while they retain a sizeable military presence they are now also tourist destinations.