Taiwanese authorities threatened to topple Chinese drones that got too close to their territory after circling near Pratas Island in the South China Sea, a minister said Wednesday. The decision could dramatically increase tensions with Beijing.
Lee Chung-wei, who is in charge of the coast guard, said in parliament that Chinese drones had recently been sighted near Pratas even though they had not flown over the area.
“They never entered our sea and air space, they only flew near the island at a certain distance,” said the minister.
When asked about the Coast Guard’s reaction when a Chinese drone enters its confined space, Lee replied that in the event of a fight there are rules: “After entering [no espaço aéreo taiwanês] The rules are followed. If there is a need to open fire, we will. “
China does not recognize Taiwan’s sovereignty, but Chinese ships and planes usually do not enter restricted Taiwan territory, which extends six kilometers from the coast. The island of Pratas is at the center of a sea dispute and has become the new source of tension between Beijing and Taipei.
In recent months, Taiwan has warned of the continued presence of the Chinese Air Force near the island. Although the Coast Guard is not supposed to be defending the area, they have already dispatched some military personnel to defend the area – the island is uninhabited but occasionally visited by scientists.
Since the beginning of the pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong, Pratas has gained greater prominence as it is Taiwanese territory, which is closer to the special region.
In October, Hong Kong’s air traffic controllers forced a weekly Taiwanese civilian flight to Pratas to turn back.
For their part, the Taiwanese authorities intercepted at least one boat near Pratas carrying people who fled Hong Kong and tried to reach Taiwan.
The other main island of Taiwan in the South China Sea is Itu Aba, also known as Taiping Island, from the Spratly Archipelago. However, according to Lee, no drones have been seen near this island.