On Wednesday, Taiwan said it was ready to shoot down a Chinese drone flying near the Taiwan-occupied Pratas island over the South China Sea, a response to what analysts see as a tactic. latest pressure from Beijing.
The Chairman of the Oceanic Affairs Council Lee Chung-wei told the Taiwanese legislature that the Taiwan coast guard had recently identified China’s unmanned aircraft (UAVs) operating near by. Pratas, about 170 nautical miles southeast of Hong Kong in the north of the South China Sea. .
Lee pointed out that Taiwan forces will open fire on UAVs flying over the island, which is also claimed by the People’s Republic of China.
“If we needed to open fire, we would open fire,” Lee said, noting that the drones so far have only been flying around Pratas and similar activity has not been observed near Itu Aba. Taiwan’s base in the Spratlys lies further to the south.
Lee did not specify what types of drones China sent to Pratas.
These drone flights, which Lee describes as a “gray zone”, take place as China is increasing pressure on Taiwan.
People’s Liberation Army (PLA) planes have been on regular flights through Taiwan’s air defense identification (ADIZ) zone for months, including through the southwestern part of ADIZ near Pratas, RFA reported in February.
Department of Defense report a record 20 PLA aircraft entered Taiwan’s ADIZ on March 26.
Jessica Drun, a non-resident member at Project Institute 2049, told RFA that “these gray zone activities are an attempt to deplete Taiwan psychologically and from a resource perspective”.
“This is happening in the midst of increasingly deepening US-Taiwan relations,” said Drun, “indigenous people in Taiwan have more or less rejected China’s cross-strait relations framework and an increasingly Chinese economy,” Drun said. assertive all over the world, ”said Drun.
Although Taiwan is a self-governing democratic country, Beijing claims Taiwan as its own territory, which will be annexed by force if it deems it necessary.
While the drones currently operating near Pratas are likely to be for spying or testing Taiwan’s will, PLA researchers have written about the possibility of using unmanned systems that have armed in combat situations involving Taiwan.
For example, PLA researchers recently published studies on the use of unmanned ground vehicles, drones and helicopter-like UAVs in amphibious operations. such as attempts to invade Taiwan or capture islets such as Pratas and Itu Aba.
Michael Mazza, a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, said that Pratas Island could be an “attractive target” for China.
“One day, China may want to capture islands, or be the first step in its attack on Taiwan, as a measure of forcing unified Taiwan, as a way to test international responses to with an attack on one of Taiwan’s offshore islands, or as part of an effort to consolidate control over the South China Sea, ”Mazza said.
Taiwan and China are just two of the claimants in the South China Sea. The remaining countries are Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam.
Even as China is heating up to assert its claims over land and waters in the South China Sea and pressuring Taiwan, other militaries are making their presence public.
A US carrier strike group conducted bilateral exercises with the Royal Malaysian Air Force (RMAF) in the South China Sea on Tuesday and Wednesday, the US Navy announced in a press release.
“The two-day drills are aimed at strengthening bilateral relations and military diplomacy,” the RMAF said in its statement.
Dizhwar Bukhari in Kuala Lumpur contributed to this report.