Taiwan says it shot down an unidentified civilian drone on one of its islands just a few kilometers from mainland China.
The drone was spotted shortly after noon Thursday over the waters of Lion Islet, a small island in the Kinmen County grouping controlled by Taiwan and located 4 kilometers (2.5 miles) off the coast of Xiamen, China.
The Kinmen Defense Command, a branch of Taiwan’s Ministry of National Defense, said the drone was shot down after warning flares failed to drive it off.
It is the latest in a series of similar incidents that have occurred near the offshore group of islands.
Unidentified drones have been reported in the Kinmen area for four consecutive days but this is the first time Taiwan has shot one down.
On Tuesday, Taiwanese soldiers fired flares at three unidentified drones that flew near Kinmen and warning shots at one that re-entered the area.
It was unclear who was flying the drones, though China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said Thursday that it was “not aware of the situation” and that it was “pointless for (Taiwan) to escalate tensions.”
After Tuesday’s incident, Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen said she had ordered the Defense Ministry to take “forceful measures” against what she said were China’s gray zone warfare tactics.
On Wednesday, Taiwan’s Ministry of National Defense reinforced that message at an international press conference called in response to China’s military exercises in August, saying it will “act in accordance with operational orders to use our right of self-defense.”
Tensions between Taiwan and mainland China have risen since US Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taipei in August. The Chinese Communist Party claims Taiwan, a self-governing democracy, as part of its territory even though it is not yet governed and has long vowed to “reunify” the island with mainland China, by force if necessary. . China responded to Pelosi’s trip by ordering days worth of military exercises around Taiwan.
On Monday, asked about reports of private drones flying in the Kinmen area, a spokesman for China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs responded: “Chinese drones flying in Chinese territory – what should be surprised? ”