TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — In response to a recent wave of incursions by Chinese warplanes into Taiwan's Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ), the Air Force is training its pilots not to take the first shot, saying that if attacked, "We will definitely fire back."
Last Friday and Saturday (Sept. 18 and 19), multiple People's Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) warplanes penetrated Taiwan's ADIZ in multiple sectors, an apparent protest of the visit by U.S. Under Secretary of State for Economic Growth, Energy, and the Environment Keith Krach and his delegation to Taiwan during that period. Prior to Krach's trip, China warned of "serious damage" to Sino-American relations if it was not canceled; after the visit went ahead, China lodged a complaint with Washington and said it would make a “necessary response.”
Amid the increased number of incursions, the Ministry of National Defense (MND) has been holding additional training sessions at the Air Force Combatant Command to instruct Air Force pilots on dealing with the intruding warplanes. According to a source who spoke to CNA, if a war breaks out between Taiwan and China, the military will initiate wartime actions such as the Gu'an Combat Plan (固安作戰計畫).
However, there are also combat readiness protocols to deal with situations that fall in the grey area between war and peace. The source said that in light of the recent encroachment of Taiwan's ADIZ, the military's approach is to avoid acting recklessly, as it is impossible to judge the true intentions behind their adversaries' movements.
In order to avoid escalating the situation into an armed clash, Air Force pilots are undergoing additional training to discuss the rules of engagement and protocols for close encounters with Chinese warplanes. The pilots are being trained to operate on the principle of not provoking their Chinese counterparts and avoiding actions that could touch off a war.
The official emphasized that the MND has revised the term "first strike" to "the right to counterattack for self-defense," with approval for such a counterattack being decided by the MND.
He pointed out that both Taiwan and China have declared they will "not fire the first shot." But he stressed that given the recent aggressive behavior by PLAAF aircraft, this does not mean Taiwanese fighter jets will not fire shots under any circumstance.
The key is the timing of "exercising the right to counterattack for self-defense," said the source. The official added that this requires full consideration of international law and other norms but "If our military is attacked, we will definitely fire back."