Just yesterday, we here at SOFREP reported on China’s stern warning to the US Navy when they legally passed through the Taiwan Strait. Even though China has multiple warships and fighter jets circling Taiwan, they still claimed that the US was trespassing in their “territory.” For nearly a month now, Taiwan has somewhat accepted that Chinese military exercises near their shorelines could be the “new normal,” they vowed to counterattack if China gets too close. And today, they did. 

Yesterday morning, Taiwan was already on high alert because the Chinese military assets were edging closer and closer to the island. Though they’ve been patient enough to remain calm in the face of this apparent provocation, Taipei was trying its best to keep the status quo. 

They were expecting the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) to keep on pushing warships and jets across the median line that divides their waterways, according to the Ministry of National Defense. They are also aided with satellite images that show verifiable proof in case China gets an inch over this line. Last month, Taipei’s defense officials wrote that these drills were already threatening the island’s national security. They’ve increased their military budget and coordinated with other nations for potential support. 

However, these exercises have already created panic within the civilian community and urgency in the face of China’s “psychological warfare” against the people of Taiwan

Chinese drills were happening at least 24 nautical miles away from Taiwan’s coast, but a harsh wind could be all it takes to accidentally push their warships beyond the median line. 

Then, around midnight (Eastern Timezone), Taiwan finally located a “civilian drone” that crossed their waters. Taiwanese troops had shot down a drone near Kinmen Island “after attempts to repel it failed,” according to a statement from the garrison on the Taipei-held outpost. 

Taiwanese Military. (Source: Wikimedia Commons/國防部軍事新聞通訊社)

This came after Taiwan fired warning shots last Tuesday and Wednesday when civilian drones started to approach their offshore islands. This is Taiwan setting their foot down and telling China that they will be ready to defend their freedom if China pushes for an aggressive approach over their sovereignty. 

In a speech last Tuesday, Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen urged the nation’s military to develop a strong campaign that will not, hopefully, result in a direct confrontation. 

“Drones are part of China’s gray-zone tactics and cognitive warfare against Taiwan,” said Kuo Yu-Jen, director of the Institute for National Policy Research in Taipei. “The incursions are an attempt to humiliate Taiwan’s military. Taiwan’s government first responded to it cautiously, and only turned tougher when they became more frequent.”

Ever since last month, Taiwanese defense officials have been saying that they have every intention to separate the two sides of its “inner sea” to make sure they provide some form of stability in the region. However, the Taiwanese military is being pushed to the edge with the continued bombardment of loud, alarming missile launches and aerial exercises in the past weeks. 

“For aircraft and ships that entered our sea and air territory of 12 nautical miles, the national army will exercise right to self-defence and counterattack without exception,” Lin Wen-Huang, Taiwan’s deputy chief of the general staff for operations and planning, told reporters.

The officials noted that they are ready to take “strong countermeasures” if China keeps on pushing forward. 

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Meanwhile, China’s saying these drones should not cause any concern for Taiwan. In a briefing earlier this week, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said the circulated videos of the drones are nothing serious. He even expressed anger toward the Taiwanese locals, who were supposedly making a big deal out of it. 

“Chinese drones flying about Chinese territory, this is not something to make a fuss about. There is an ancient Chinese teaching that ‘uninvited people are called thieves.’ Whether it is breaking through the door or peeping from the air, the people of Taiwan do not welcome such thieves.”

Meanwhile, White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby is not willing to confirm the drone complaints but implies that the US is closely watching China’s activities. 

“They’re trying to turn up the temperature to a degree where it becomes sort of this new normal,” Kirby said. “We’re not going to accept it.”

Though we have assessed multiple times that China’s not going to push for Taiwan anytime soon, this could be the one trigger they were waiting for to get started. Were China to set about actually invading Taiwan, we would be seeing 500-600,000 troops being moved to the coast, along with concentrations of aircraft to coastal airfields and bases. It would also require a very large invasion fleet to be amassed that would take several days to load with troops and supplies all under the view of our satellites.