KEY POINTS

  • Taiwan has been reporting incursions by the PLA air force into its air zone
  • China said its warship has been conducting "routine exercise" around Taiwan 
  • Beijing blamed US warships in South China sea for engaging in “provocations” 

As China goes on the offensive, conducting simultaneous military drills to the west and east of Taiwan, the island nation has warned of retaliation, saying "if we need to open fire, we open fire.” 

Lee Chung-wei, who heads the Ocean Affairs Council under whose purview the Coast Guard falls, told Parliament that Taiwan had spotted Chinese drones circling the Pratas Islands in the South China Sea, reported Reuters.

“They have never entered our restricted waters and airspace, they’ve just flown around them at a certain distance,” Lee said.

On how the Taiwanese Coast Guard would react if a Chinese drone entered that restricted zone, Lee said, "After it enters it will be handled under the rules. If we need to open fire, we open fire.” 

The Pratas Islands, located in the northern part of the South China Sea, is closer to the Chinese mainland than to Taiwan. Its strategic relevance has increased in proportion to the importance of the South China Sea. 

Recent reports claimed that China may look to capture the Pratas Islands as a means to demonstrate its might. Its proximity to Hong Kong too makes it relevant, in the light of the growing opposition against the Chinese government in Hong Kong. 

Taiwan reported frequent incursions by the People's Liberation Army (PLA) air force into its Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ). Its Defense Ministry said the PLA sent 15 warplanes into the island's ADIZ Wednesday.  

China has acknowledged that its aircraft carrier Liaoning and its escorts were conducting maneuvers around Taiwan, calling them "routine training exercise" aimed at testing "the troops' training effectiveness and beef up their capability to safeguard national sovereignty, security, and development interests."

Taiwan’s Defence Ministry Monday said it had a “full grasp” of the situation in the air and at sea surrounding Taiwan and that it was “appropriately handling” the matter. 

The Chinese state-backed newspaper Global Times has said that these drills hint at PLA's ability to "surround Taiwan and block it from receiving foreign reinforcements." It also sends a "strong warning to the coast guard agreement the US signed with the island on Friday," the report said quoting analysts. 

The sailing of a U.S. warship close to Taiwan has irked Beijing. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said U.S. ships engaging in “provocations” “send a seriously wrong signal to the forces of Taiwan independence, threatening peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait”. 

"Would a Chinese warship go to the Gulf of Mexico to make a show of strength?” he asked.

This comes amid reports that guided-missile destroyer USS John S. McCain conducted a “routine” transit of the Taiwan Strait on Wednesday. The US Navy said the ship's transit through the Taiwan Strait demonstrates the nation's commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific. 

Though Taiwan has been governed independently by a democratically elected government since 1949, Beijing views the island as part of its territory. Chinese Premier Xi Jinping had recently said that Taiwan’s unification with China was inevitable and that Beijing wouldn't mind using military force to bring it into the fold.

Taiwan's coastguard on Monday told AFP it recorded a huge spike in Chinese vessels illegally entering its waters to dredge sand Representational image Photo: AFP / -