0901: Taiwan Troops Shoot Down Chinese Drone; Sen. Blackburn Urges to Preserve Taiwan’s Independence; U.S. Warships Transit Taiwan Strait

Taiwan Troops on Kinmen Shoot Down Chinese Drone for First Time

Taiwanese Troops on Kinmen’s Shi Island shot down a Chinese drone on September 1, the first such shootdown since Taiwan ordered a more robust response to unauthorized incursions.

In a statement, Taiwan’s Kinmen Defense Command said soldiers stationed on the county’s Shi Island detected an unidentified Chinese drone flying in restricted areas near its outpost at 12:03 p.m. on September 1 (local time).

In accordance with its four-step rules of engagement for drone encounters — “firing warning flares, reporting the incursion, expelling the drone and ultimately shooting it down” — the command said soldiers first fired warning flares and live rounds in an attempt to expel it.

However, as the drone continued to hover, soldiers ultimately shot the aircraft down, the command said.

Previously, Taiwanese troops had only fired warning flares and live rounds in response to such incursions, and refrained from stronger countermeasures, such as shooting the drones down, to avoid further escalating cross-Taiwan Strait tensions.

News of the shootdown comes after Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen said on August 30 that she had instructed the Armed Forces to take “strong countermeasures” when necessary to protect Taiwan’s airspace.

While visiting the armed forces on the Penghu Islands, Tsai criticized China for its drone and other “grey zone” warfare activity.

“I want to tell everyone that the more the enemy provokes, the calmer we must be,” Tsai told naval officers. “We will not provoke disputes, and we will exercise self-restraint, but it does not mean that we will not counter.”

Taiwan’s military had come under fire for its perceived weak response to drone incursions after close-range aerial photographs of two Taiwanese soldiers manning a guardhouse in Kinmen taken by a Chinese drone began circulating widely online.

To deal with China’s rising drone threat over the long term, Taiwan’s Ministry of National Defense said it is working on a drone defense system that will be installed by next year in Kinmen and Matsu (Lienchiang), two Taiwan-controlled counties located close to China’s coast.

[1] Focus Taiwan: https://focustaiwan.tw/cross-strait/202209010012
[2] Reuters: https://www.reuters.com/world/asia-pacific/taiwan-president-restraint-does-not-mean-it-wont-counter-china-2022-08-30/

Visiting U.S. Senator Blackburn Calls for Preserving Taiwan’s Independence

It is important for democracies to support Taiwan as it works to preserve its independence and freedom, visiting U.S. Senator Marsha Blackburn said at a meeting with Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen on August 26. 

“It is important, indeed, that freedom-loving nations support Taiwan as they seek to preserve their independence and their freedom,” said Blackburn, a member of the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee.

Blackburn said she looks forward to continuing to help support the people of Taiwan as “they push forward as an independent nation.”

The senator has been critical of China, which she described as an “adversary” of the United States.

“I will continue to stand with [Taiwanese] and their right to freedom and democracy,” Blackburn wrote on Twitter after arriving in Taiwan on August 25 for a three-day visit, adding that Chinese President Xi Jinping “doesn’t scare me.”

Meanwhile, President Tsai praised Blackburn for recently sponsoring a bill in the U.S. Congress that aimed to “bolster U.S. backing for Taiwan to enhance our self-defense capabilities.”

The president was mostly likely referring to the “Taiwan Democracy Defense Lend-Lease Act” (S.4652) introduced in July. According to Blackburn, the bill would support “the United States’ partnership with Taiwan by authorizing a defense lend or lease program with the government of Taiwan.”

Tsai said Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and China’s military exercises in the Taiwan Strait showed that authoritarian countries are disrupting and threatening the world order.

She urged democracies to “further unite and cooperate in jointly holding a firm line of defense of our values, freedom and democracy.”

Tsai also expressed hope that Taiwan could join the U.S.-initiated “Indo-Pacific Economic Framework for Prosperity” (IPEF) and other regional economic cooperation architecture, saying that like-minded countries should deepen economic and trade cooperation to create more secure and resilient supply chains.

[1] Focus Taiwan: https://focustaiwan.tw/politics/202208260011
[2] Taipei Times: https://www.taipeitimes.com/News/front/archives/2022/08/27/2003784235

Two U.S. Warships Transit Taiwan Strait for First Time Since Pelosi’s Taiwan Visit

Two U.S. warships sailed through international waters in the Taiwan Strait on August 28, the first such transit since China staged unprecedented military drills around Taiwan after the Taiwan visit of the U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

The transit through the Taiwan Strait “demonstrates the United States’ commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific,” the 7th Fleet under the U.S. Pacific Command said in a statement, adding that the U.S. military “flies, sails, and operates anywhere international law allows.”

The ships, identified as Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruisers USS Antietam (CG 54) and USS Chancellorsville (CG 62), conducted a “routine” transit of the Taiwan Strait “through [international] waters where high seas freedoms of navigation and overflight apply in accordance with international law,” the statement said.

“These ships transited through a corridor in the Strait that is beyond the territorial sea of any coastal state,” it added.

U.S. warships have been making routine, almost monthly “freedom of navigation” passages through the waterway separating Taiwan and China for the past two-plus years.

The latest passage comes three weeks after U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi arrived in Taiwan for a 19-hour whirlwind visit from August 2 to 3, the first visit by a sitting U.S. House of Representatives speaker since 1997.

China reacted furiously, staging days of air and sea military exercises around Taiwan. Taiwan condemned the Chinese drills and missile tests as preparation for an invasion.

The United States has accused China of threatening peace in the Taiwan Strait and using Pelosi’s visit as a pretext for military exercises to try to set a “new status quo” in cross-Taiwan Strait relations.

The U.S. would not accept Chinese maneuvers that attempt to establish a “new normal” across the Taiwan Strait, U.S. National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said on August 29, while answering a question about recent Chinese drone incursions on Taiwan’s outlying islands.

[1] Focus Taiwan: https://focustaiwan.tw/politics/202208280005
[2] Taipei Times: https://www.taipeitimes.com/News/front/archives/2022/08/29/2003784330
[3] Taipei Times: https://www.taipeitimes.com/News/front/archives/2022/08/31/2003784471