• ‘Gray zone’ tactics prompt response from Taiwanese military
  • China has stepped up incursions since Nancy Pelosi’s visit

US Preps Sales of $1.1 Billion Arms Package to TaiwanUnmuteUS Preps Sales of $1.1 Billion Arms Package to TaiwanCindy Wang and Philip Glamann

1. September 2022 um 07:05 MESZUpdated on

Taiwan downed a civilian drone after weeks of complaints about incursions by unmanned aerial vehicles from China, a sign Taipei is pushing back against Beijing’s efforts to encroach on its territory.

Taiwanese troops shot the drone down near Kinmen Island around noon Thursday after attempts to repel it failed, according to a statement from the garrison on the Taipei-held outpost just off China.

That followed incidents on Tuesday and Wednesday in which Taiwan fired warning shots and flares at civilian drones that approached its offshore islands.

Kinmen Islands
Taiwan’s Kinmen islands, foreground, across from China’s Dadeng island in Xiamen, on Aug. 10.Photographer: Sam Yeh/AFP/Getty Images

Taiwan’s military is trying to reaffirm limits on Chinese presence around its territory after Nancy Pelosi became the first US House speaker in a quarter century to visit the democratically ruled island. Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen in a speech Tuesday urged the military to craft a strong response to China’s pressure campaign without prompting further escalation.

“Drones are part of China’s gray-zone tactics and cognitive warfare against Taiwan,” said Kuo Yu-jen, director of the Institute for National Policy Research in Taipei. “The incursions are an attempt to humiliate Taiwan’s military. Taiwan’s government first responded to it cautiously, and only turned tougher when they became more frequent.”

The People’s Liberation Army held unprecedented exercises for several days around Taiwan after Pelosi’s visit, including firing ballistic missiles over the island. Taipei has reported that an average of more than 10 Chinese warplanes have crossed the US-drafted median line that divides the Taiwan Strait each day since the lawmaker arrived, according to data compiled by Bloomberg News. 

The drone flights over Taiwan’s outlying islands started in late July, although neither side has specified where they are coming from. The Chinese Communist Party’s Global Times newspaper has said “the frequent flights of civilian drones from the mainland expose the Taiwan armed forces’ weak defenses.”

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said he was unaware of a report Taiwan downed a drone when asked about it Thursday at a regular press briefing in Beijing. He added that “hyping up tension across the Taiwan Strait” by Tsai’s Democratic Progressive Party “doesn’t mean anything.”

“China meant to test response of Taiwan’s military in offshore islands like Kinmen by sending those drones, and also used these small-scale events to see how Taiwanese society respond to them,” said Crystal Tu, assistant research fellow at Institute for National Defense and Security Research. “They may also try to see whether there are loopholes in the procedure or response that they can further take advantage of.” 

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Two US Navy guided-missile cruisers sailed through the Taiwan Strait on Sunday, as part of the Biden administration’s effort to demonstrate its commitment to maintaining a military presence in the region. The administration is preparing to sell about $1.1 billion in other missiles and radars to Taiwan, according to a person familiar with the matter, in what would be the largest such transfer in almost two years.

The Taiwanese Defense Ministry told lawmakers that China’s increasing encroachments pose “severe military challenges” to the island, according to a report seen by Bloomberg News. Lin Wen-huang, an operations and planning official at the Ministry, separately told reporters Wednesday that Taiwan would counterattack if Chinese forces entered its territory.  

“Our stance is that the closer the incursions are to Taiwan, the stronger our counter measures will be,” Lin said.

— With assistance by Samson Ellis, and Sarah Zheng

(Updates with comment from China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.)

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