Beijing, which claims Taiwan is part of its territory in accordance with its One China doctrine, has held military exercises around the island since early last month in reaction to a visit to Taipei by US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Taiwan’s government has said it will not provoke or escalate tensions but has been angered recently by repeated cases of Chinese drones buzzing near islands controlled by Taiwan close to China’s coast.
The defence command for Kinmen, a group of Taiwan-controlled islands opposite China’s Xiamen and Quanzhou cities, said in a statement released by Taiwan’s defence ministry the civilian drone entered restricted air space over Lion Islet just after midday (4am GMT).
Troops on Kinmen issued warnings to no effect, eventually opting to shoot it down, with the remains landing in the sea, it added.
Taiwan previously fired warning shots at a drone for the first time on Tuesday, shortly after President Tsai Ing-wen ordered the military to take “strong countermeasures” against what she called Chinese provocations.
Chiu Chui-cheng, deputy head of Taiwan’s China-policy making Mainland Affairs Council, told reporters Taiwan had the legal authority to take “necessary defence measures”, as Chinese aircraft were not allowed into Kinmen’s air space.
Those measures include forcing aircraft to leave or to land, he said.
Speaking to the armed forces earlier on Thursday, Tsai said China was using drones and other “grey zone” tactics to try to intimidate Taiwan, her office cited her as saying in a statement.
Taiwan has controlled Kinmen, which at its closest point is a few hundred 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, but they are now tourist destinations.
Also today, Taiwan’s defence ministry said 14 Chinese fighter jets flew across the median line of the Taiwan Strait, which usually serves as an unofficial territorial barrier.
Meanwhile, in a report presented to Taiwan’s Parliament today, the ministry said China had been simulating attacks on US Navy ships and was aiming to prevent foreign forces from coming to Taiwan’s aid in the event of a war.
The document warned China was continuing to strengthen its combat preparedness for an attack on the island. It was focusing on the first island chain, which runs from Japan through Taiwan, the Philippines and on to Borneo, enclosing China’s coastal seas.
China has been “using combat drills to carry out simulated attacks on US ships that enter into the first island chain”, the report claimed, and aims to gain strategic control of that island chain by 2035.
The United States has been regularly sailing naval ships into the South China Sea, sometimes close to Chinese-held islands, and also through the Taiwan Strait on what it calls freedom of navigation missions that always anger China.
Starting this year, the ministry said China has increased its military intimidation including drills which aim to undermine Taiwan’s morale and “force negotiations with a war” and “force a unification with arms”.
China, led by Xi Jinping, could use special forces or agents to “decapitate” Taiwan’s command systems and damage infrastructure in an attack, and is capable of launching electronic attacks to disrupt communications and command systems, said the report.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is also being studied by China and has prompted them to “modify” their Taiwan attack plans, the ministry said, without elaborating.
There was no immediate response from Beijing.