Taiwan’s premier Su Tseng-chang said the island's decision to shoot down a drone off the Chinese coast was an “appropriate” act of self-defence.
Taiwan for the first time in history on Thursday shot down an unidentified civilian drone that entered its airspace near an islet near the Chinese city of Xiamen. The drone crashed into the sea after being shot at for entering the restricted air space near the islet Lion.
Earlier this week, the Taiwanese military had fired warning shots at Chinese drones that flew near Kinmen county, forcing the unmanned aircraft to return to China.
“They repeatedly ignored our warnings to leave and we had no choice but to exercise self-defence and shoot,” the premier told reporters on Friday.
“This is the most appropriate reaction after repeated restraint and warnings.”
He added that Taiwan had repeatedly issued warnings and told Beijing “not to encroach on our doorstep”.
“We will never provoke, and we will do the most appropriate thing to protect our land and our people,” Mr Su added.
The Kinmen defence command said that on Friday its forces detected two drones that quickly flew back to Xiamen after the military fired warning flares.
The premier’s remarks come days after Taiwanese president Tsai Ing-wen said the military had been ordered to take “strong countermeasures” against what she called China’s “grey zone” warfare provocations.
“We will not provoke disputes, and we will exercise self-restraint, but it does not mean that we will not counter,” Ms Tsai told naval officers during a troop inspection on the Penghu islands.
China considers Taiwan to be a part of its national territory, even though the island has been self-ruled since it split from the mainland in 1949.
Beijing has beefed up its military presence around the island since US House speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taipei last month.
During the height of the Cold War, Beijing routinely shelled the Kinmen islet, and the recent military exercises around Taiwan have revived fears of conflict in the region.
Earlier this week, Taiwan released its four-step protocol for responding to drone encounters, which includes firing warning flares, reporting the incursion, expelling the drone and lastly, shooting it down.
Taiwan foreign minister Joseph Wu, speaking via video link to a forum in Prague, said the president has championed the idea of “asymmetric warfare”.
”To safeguard our security and sovereignty, Taiwan will continue to develop its asymmetric capacity to make the invasion across the Strait very difficult and costly,” he said.
Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian reportedly said Taiwan’s “attempt to hype up tensions does not mean anything”.
Local media cited China’s Taiwan Affairs Office as saying that the downing of the drone was “extremely ridiculous” and that Taipei was trying to “hype up confrontation”.
Beijing had previously dismissed Taiwan’s complaints of “drone harassment” as “not worth fussing about”.
Additional reporting by agencies