TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Taiwan’s Coast Guard Administration has been tracking Chinese drones around the Dongsha Islands (東沙群島, Pratas Islands) in the disputed South China Sea and may shoot them down if they enter Taiwanese restricted waters or airspace.
Speaking in the legislature on Wednesday (April 7), Lee Chung-wei (李仲威) — head of the Ocean Affairs Council that oversees the Coast Guard — said Chinese drones have been spotted circling the Dongsha Islands recently but noted that they have not flown directly over the islands. “They've never entered our restricted waters and airspace; they have just flown around them at a certain distance,” Reuters cited Lee as saying.
Chinese military planes and ships generally stay outside of Taiwan’s restricted zone, which reaches out six kilometers from its coast, per the report. When asked how the Coast Guard would respond to an intrusion by a Chinese drone, Lee replied that they had rules of engagement.
“After it enters it will be handled under the rules. If we need to open fire, we open fire,” Lee said.
The Dongsha Islands are located 450 km southwest of Kaohsiung, while Taiping Island in the Spratly archipelago lies 1,500 km from Kaohsiung. Both are in the South China Sea and controlled by Taiwan.
Tensions in the region have been steadily rising as China regularly sends military aircraft into Taiwan’s air defense identification zone. On Monday (April 5), Beijing also announced that it would begin to carry out regular aircraft carrier exercises closer to Taiwan in the future.