A new type of Chinese combat drone capable of carrying a huge weapons payload has flown near Taiwan, according to the island’s defense minister on Friday, in the latest flare-up of military tensions.
China, which considers democratically controlled Taiwan to be its own territory, has upped military pressure on the island in recent years in an attempt to convince Taipei to acknowledge Beijing’s sovereignty claims.
This month China staged war games around Taiwan after Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen met in Los Angeles with U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Kevin McCarthy.
Taiwan’s defense ministry, in its daily update of Chinese military activities from the previous 24 hours, said 19 military aircraft had entered the island’s air defencse identification zone.
One of those aircraft was a TB-001 drone, which flew around Taiwan, first crossing the Bashi Channel that separates Taiwan from the Philippines, then up the east of Taiwan before crossing back toward the Chinese coast, according to a map provided by the ministry.
Chinese state media has referred to the TB-001 as the “twin-tailed scorpion” and has shown pictures of it with missiles under its wings, saying it is capable of high altitude, long-range missions.
China’s air force has flown what it calls “island encirclement” missions with the nuclear-capable H-6 bomber.
No shots were fired and Chinese aircraft have not flown in Taiwan’s airspace. The air defence identification zone, or ADIZ, is a broader area Taiwan monitors and patrols to give its forces more time to respond to threats.
Chinese military aircraft have since last year regularly crossed the median line of the Taiwan Strait, which normally serves as an unofficial barrier between the two sides, though China says it does not recognise this.
Taiwan’s government rejects China’s sovereignty claims and says only the island’s people can decide their future.