Taiwan is refusing to cower before the military might of its neighbour, China, which has increased its military presence in the region in recent weeks. In a statement on Wednesday, the head of Taiwan’s Ocean Affairs Council said that Taiwan could open fire on Chinese drones flying around the Taiwanese-controlled Pratas Islands in the South China Sea.
Lee Chung Wei, the chairman of the Ocean Affairs Council, warned that if Chinese drones should enter Taiwanese airspace, the country’s rules of engagement permit them to take down those drones. Lee made his comments in a parliamentary session, as reported by Reuters.
“After it enters it will be handled under the rules. If we need to open fire, we open fire,” Lee said.
Chinese drones have been inching closer to Taiwanese airspace but have yet to breach the defensive perimeter. Speaking to parliament, Lee stated, “They have never entered our restricted waters and airspace, they’ve just flown around them at a certain distance.”
Lee remarks echo growing concerns by the United States about a possible invasion of Chinese forces, and follow remarks by Taiwan’s foreign minister Joseph Wu, who said that the Taiwanese military will “defend ourselves to the very last day” in the event of an invasion.
Taiwan has long been a thorn in China’s side, proclaiming sovereignty in open defiance of China’s communist government, which refers to Taiwan as a breakaway province that rightfully belongs to China.
The territory China is currently flying drones over belongs to Taiwan, which operates an airfield on the Pratas Islands. As with many other locations in the South China Sea, China holds that it alone owns all of the territories under its historically divergent ‘nine-dash line’ territorial map.
China has previously held military drills in Hainan province, not too far from the Pratas Islands. The military drills raised concerns that China has been preparing for an amphibious incursion into the region in a prelude to a full-scale invasion of Taiwan.
The threat of a Chinese invasion of Taiwan has become a primary concern among U.S. military forces in the Pacific, who have observed that China has been flying military planes around the island nation on an almost daily basis, in an apparent effort to gage the capabilities of Taiwan’s air force and to test the waters with Taiwan’s American allies.