Taiwan will deploy an anti-drone defence system as early as next year after a Chinese drone flew over the outlying Kinmen islands and photographed guards as they threw stones at it.
The Taiwanese defence ministry said that the system would first be installed on the islands, which are only six miles from the Chinese mainland, to cope with “grey-area threats”.
The plan was outlined shortly before the Taiwanese government said it would boost the defence budget by $1.6 billion to a total of $13.8 billion next year — an increase of 12.9 per cent — due to the “Chinese communists’ continued expansion of targeted military activities”.
Beijing, which claims Taiwan as its territory and has vowed to seize it by force if necessary, was infuriated when Nancy Pelosi, the speaker of the US House of Representatives, visited the island this month to demonstrate US support. Marsha Blackburn, a Republican senator, followed suit yesterday, arriving in Taipei aboard a US military aircraft.
The first Chinese drone appeared over Kinmen, off the Chinese coastal city of Xiamen, on August 3, prompting local defence forces to fire flares to warn it away. There were further reports in the following days. The close-range aerial photo of the two alarmed Taiwanese soldiers at an outpost was circulated widely on Chinese social and state media this week. Its provenance is unclear.
Yesterday the Taiwanese army confirmed the authenticity of the photograph and said it was taken by a Chinese civilian-operated drone over Lieyu Township, at about 6pm on August 16, according to the Central News Agency, Taiwan’s official news service
The Taiwanese army said the Lieyu Garrison Battalion took “appropriate responsive measures to repel the drone” as well as “counter-surveillance measures in accordance with standard procedures”.
An unnamed military source told the news agency that the soldiers stopped short of shooting down the drone, to avoid escalating tensions between Beijing and Taipei.
Taiwan’s defence authorities said the image was taken with a telephoto lens and was part of Beijing’s “cognitive warfare” against the island. In China state media claimed that it was a military drone.
But the Global Times, a party-run newspaper, cited an unnamed social media influencer saying the drone was probably a private one operated by a civilian. The People’s Liberation Army has made no commenton the drone’s ownership.
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Beijing is investing heavily in combat drones, including electronic warfare versions that would play a significant role in any attack on Taiwan.
Earlier this month it unveiled a prototype of a new lightweight drone which the Global Times said could loiter in the skies for 24 hours before carrying out missile attacks.