Taiwan has for the first time confirmed several Chinese military drones have crossed the median line dividing the Taiwan Strait into the island country’s air defense zone.
It said 45 PLA aircraft flew around the island country Thursday, of which 25 crossed the median line. They included an unmanned aerial vehicle.
Taiwanese military also confirmed that more drones crossed the line on Friday and Saturday.
A PLA drone, identified as a BZK-007 vehicle, reportedly crossed into the island’s air defense identification zone (ADIZ) in the southwest corner, along with eight other Chinese warplanes, on Sept. 5. The incursion came just days after Taiwanese soldiers shot down a civilian drone over the waters of a tiny island to China’s mainland.
Over the last two years, China has increased incursions into Taiwan’s southwestern ADIZ. However, the use of military drones has been rare.
Taiwan’s ADIZ, which is larger than its airspace, overlaps with part of China’s air defense zone and even includes some parts of the mainland.
Over the past month, drone incursions have added to the tensions between the two sides. Taiwan reported nearly 30 drone intrusions since U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to the island last month. These drones were mostly civilian or unidentified.
The country’s military has now started shooting down civilian drones flying over its territory.
“We restrain ourselves, but that doesn’t mean we won’t hit back,” Taiwan’s president Tsai Ing-wen warned China, adding she has ordered the military to take “strong and necessary countermeasures” to defend its airspace and security when appropriate.
Responding to a question by reporters regarding the civilian drone intrusions, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian asked, “Chinese drones flying over China’s territory — what’s there to be surprised at?”
Tensions between Taiwan and mainland China have been high since Pelosi visited Taipei in August. China responded by ordering several days of military drills around the island. Beijing claims the self-governed island is part of its territory and has long vowed to “reunify” the island with the Chinese mainland, by force if necessary.
Taiwan has been seeking to build up its military capabilities to stave off a possible attack from China. However, arms supplies from the U.S. have been delayed due to the ongoing war in Ukraine.