After repeated warnings, Taiwan’s shooting down a drone off the Chinese coast that buzzed a Taiwanese-controlled island was the most “proper” thing to do, and China should exercise patience, Taiwan Premier Su Tseng-chang said on Friday.
On Thursday, Taiwan’s military shot down an unidentified civilian drone that entered its airspace on an islet in China’s Xiamen city, after the government threatened to take tough steps to cope with an increase in such intrusions.
The incident came after Taiwan had repeatedly complained of harassment by drones coming from China and flying right up close to the Kinmen islands, which have been taking place as Beijing stages military drills around Taiwan.
Speaking to reporters, Su said Taiwan had repeatedly issued warnings and “asked them not to encroach on our doorstep”.
“They repeatedly ignored our warnings to leave and we had no choice but to exercise self-defence and shoot. This is the most appropriate reaction after repeated restraint and warnings,” he added.
China should exercise restraint, Su said.
“We will never provoke, and we will do the most appropriate thing to protect our land and our people.”
Taiwanese media cited China’s Taiwan Affairs Office as saying in response to the downing that Taiwan’s attempt to “hype up confrontation between the two sides is extremely ridiculous”.
The drone was shot down after entering restricted air space near the tiny Lion islet, and crashed into the sea, according to Taiwan’s military.
Chinese forces have been exercising near Taiwan since early last month, following the visit to Taipei of U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, which infuriated Beijing.
China views democratically-governed Taiwan as its own territory, despite the strong objections of the government in Taipei.
At least two videos of recent drone trips have circulated widely on Chinese social media, in one of which Taiwanese soldiers were seen throwing stones at the craft.
Su said these videos were made for China’s “propaganda at home”, adding to the anger of Taiwan’s people.
China’s foreign ministry on Monday dismissed Taiwan’s complaints about drones as nothing “to make a fuss about”.
Taiwan fired warning shots at a drone for the first time on Tuesday shortly after President Tsai Ing-wen said she had ordered the military to take “strong countermeasures” against what she termed Chinese provocations.
Taiwan has controlled Kinmen, which at its closest point is a few hundred metres (feet) from Chinese territory, since the defeated Republic of China government fled to Taipei after losing a civil war to Mao Zedong’s communists in 1949.
During the height of the Cold War, China regularly shelled Kinmen and other Taiwanese-held islands along the Chinese coast, and while they retain a sizeable military presence they are now also tourist destinations.