Taiwan should shoot down Chinese drones, says military expert

Taiwan’s military experts are divided on how the self-governing territory should react to Chinese drones, which are entering the airspace over islands under its control near the Chinese mainland with increasing frequency.

Options range from shooting them down, as was first done a few miles from the Chinese city of Xiamen on September 1, to ignoring them in the hope of avoiding an unnecessary confrontation with Beijing.

Perhaps the least effective solution is to throw rocks at them, as Taiwanese soldiers were seen doing in a late August video that went viral on the Chinese social media platform Weibo.

One of the strongest advocates of a hard line is Holmes Liao, a former adjunct distinguished lecturer at Taiwan’s War College and now an analyst at the Jamestown Foundation in the United States.

“Any drone should be shot down,” Liao said in an interview with VOA’s Mandarin Service. “There’s nothing else to say. Once it’s in our airspace, shoot it down. How can Taiwanese have confidence in national defense if they are afraid or unable to shoot down drones?”

Drone flights, mostly over a handful of Taiwan-held islands within sight of the mainland, have increased with a series of Chinese live-fire exercises around Taiwan since August 2, when the president of the United States House Nancy Pelosi has become America’s top official. in 25 years to visit the autonomous island.

FILE – Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen gestures at the presidential office in Taipei, August 22, 2022.

Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen last week ordered the Taiwanese military to take strong countermeasures against any Chinese provocation, and on September 1 the military shot down a drone over Shiyu, a small islet part of Kinmen County in Taiwan, just offshore from Xiamen, a port city. and tourist hotspot in China.

The military said it first tried to warn the device with flares before firing it into the sea.

The action was seen by some as an escalation by Taiwan, whose Defense Minister Chiu Kuo-cheng was quoted by Newsweek last year as saying its military would “never strike first” and give thus giving China an excuse to attack Taiwan.

But Taiwanese Prime Minister Su Tseng-chang defended the shooting the next day, saying it was “appropriate” after repeated warnings. “We had no choice but to exercise self-defense and shoot,” Su told reporters.

Beijing basically laughed off the incident, describing it as “extremely ridiculous” in a statement from its Taiwan Affairs Office. The statement, as reported by Taiwanese media, also accused Taiwan of trying to “escalate the confrontation”.

FILE - Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin speaks during a press conference in Beijing, November 13, 2020.

FILE – Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin speaks during a press conference in Beijing, November 13, 2020.

Speaking at a regular press briefing on the same day, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said, “There is no need for the Taiwanese authorities to exaggerate the tension.

Some Taiwanese analysts also question whether drone flights, which may be the work of civilians on the mainland rather than the Chinese military, pose a sufficient threat to justify the risk of provoking Chinese retaliation.

Lu Li-shih, a former instructor at the Taiwanese Naval Academy, told VOA Mandarin that he feared soldiers firing at the drones could accidentally hit civilian ships passing between Kinmen County, which is a scattering of islands , and Xiamen.

“Because [Kinmen] is really close to the other side, how do you solve the problem of accidental shooting incident? There are also soldiers on the other side, so if they hear the shots and fire back, doesn’t that start a real conflict across the strait?” Lu asked.

Lu suggested the Taiwanese government take advantage of anti-drone weapons such as the Iron Beam, an air defense system developed by Israeli defense contractor Rafael.

According to 1945, a defense industry publication, the system creates a laser wall that can be used against “mines, mortar shells and anti-tank missiles, as well as drone, rocket and missile attacks. conventional”.

Another option was offered by Chang-Ho Yu, a military writer from Taipei.

“If the army can’t deal with it temporarily, or if maybe for some reason today our government just doesn’t want the army to deal with it, then maybe the police can,” Yu told VOA Mandarin.

The United States, for its part, on September 2 announced a $1.1 billion weapons package for Taiwan that would include anti-ship and air-to-air missiles to repel possible attempts to invade China. China.

A few days earlier, US National Security Council Coordinator John Kirby said the United States was aware of reports of Chinese drones buzzing in Taiwan’s airspace and that they were not would ever accept a “new normal” that China is trying to establish across the Taiwan Strait, the Taipei Time reported.

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