Taiwan fires live rounds at unidentified drones near outlying islands

An outlying island of Kinmen

Taiwan has fired warning shots at three unidentified drones that flew near its outlying islands.

It is not clear who was flying the drones, but all three were seen flying back towards the Chinese mainland, said Taiwan’s defence ministry.

It comes as Taipei has over the past weeks complained of Chinese drones flying close to Taiwan-controlled islets near the Chinese coast.

It is the first time warning shots have been fired at such drones.

The Kinmen Defense Command said three civilian drones were spotted on Tuesday evening in Dadan, Erdan and Shiyu – three Kinmen County islets that are just a few kilometres away from the Chinese city of Xiamen.

It added that it fired warning flares, before eventually firing a live round at a returning drone. The drones eventually headed towards Xiamen.

There was no immediate response from China, though Beijing had earlier dismissed complaints from Taiwan about repeated harassment by Chinese drones.

“Chinese drones flying over China’s territory, what’s there to be surprised at?” said foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian on Monday.

Taiwan’s Foreign Ministry expressed anger at his comments, saying “uninvited people are called thieves”.

Earlier last week, Taiwan unveiled a record defence budget – proposing an increased budget of T$586.3bn ($19bn; £16bn).

Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen had earlier said Taiwan would take “appropriate” measures against what she called grey zone tactics, adding they would not “provoke disputes, and we will exercise self-restraint, but it does not mean that we will not counter”.

In mid-August, leaked drone footage of Taiwanese soldiers throwing rocks at the machines in a bid to drive them back, was widely circulated online. The video stoked widespread ridicule and mockery on Chinese social media.

Tensions between Taiwan and China remain at a near all-time high after US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi visited the self-governing island in early August.

China carried out its biggest-ever military exercises in the seas around Taiwan following the visit. China saw the visit as a challenge to its claims of sovereignty over Taiwan, which sees itself as distinct.

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