Taiwan fires live rounds at Chinese drones 'for first time'
The incident came after Taipei said it would start shooting down China’s unmanned aircraft
Taiwan’s Army Command said on Tuesday that its soldiers fired live warning shots at a “batch” of drones over the island of Erdan, after which the craft returned to China. With tensions high in the Taiwan Strait, Taipei has taken a tougher stance on Chinese drone flights as of late.
Beginning shortly after 4pm local time, three groups of three “civilian” drones flew over the Taiwanese islands of Dadan, Erdan and Shiyu, which make up the Kinmen archipelago. One batch entered restricted airspace over Erdan, prompting soldiers to fire “defensive shots” and drive the aircraft away, Army Command said in a statement.
After being fired upon, the drones headed towards the Chinese city of Xiamen, the statement continued.
Local media note that Taiwan’s military has never reported using live ammunition against a Chinese drone before, but Tuesday’s incident came two days after the Taiwanese Ministry of National Defense announced that it would follow a new, four-step procedure when dealing with China’s unmanned aerial vehicles.
This procedure involves "firing signal flares, reporting the intrusion, driving the drone out, and shooting it down,” according to the ministry.
Taiwan fired flares at a Chinese drone over the Kinmens earlier this month, alleging that the craft had been sent to probe military defenses on the islands. Located close to the Chinese mainland, the Kinmens are heavily fortified, and played a major role during previous conflicts between China’s communist government and nationalist forces led by Chiang Kai-shek in the 1950’s.
Footage of several drone flights over the Kinmens has been shared on Chinese social media in recent weeks, with one video showing Taiwanese troops throwing rocks at the hovering craft.
Tensions between China and Taiwan have remained high since US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi made a controversial visit to the island earlier this month. The trip, which Beijing considered a tacit endorsement of Taiwanese independence by Washington, prompted China to hold large-scale military exercises in the Taiwan Strait. US warships responded by sailing through the waterway, while Taiwan held military drills of its own.
China maintains that it holds sovereignty over Taiwan, a position that the US has acknowledged, but not endorsed, since the 1970s.