Taiwan island’s weak defense exposed amid mainland civilian drones’ Kinmen excursion
Published: Aug 30, 2022 08:35 PM

There is no need to make a fuss about Chinese mainland drones flying above Taiwan-administered Kinmen, which is Chinese territory, experts stressed as Taiwan authorities said they had fired warning shots at a Chinese mainland drone. 

Although Taiwan's armed forces on Tuesday fired warning shots at a Chinese mainland drone which buzzed an islet of Kinmen, the frequent flights of civilian drones from the mainland expose the Taiwan armed forces' weak defenses, and even if Kinmen is equipped with anti-drone systems, they would only affect civilian drones, not military ones, experts said.

Citing a spokesperson of Taiwan's armed forces in Kinmen, Taiwan media reported that the forces fired warning shots at a drone entering "prohibited areas" of an islet of Kinmen. The drone headed back toward the mainland after the shots were fired, the spokesperson said. It was the first time warning shots were fired in such an incident.

Taiwan authorities on Monday confirmed that they warned off another drone allegedly flying from the mainland city of Xiamen, East China's Fujian Province toward an outpost in the Kinmen island on Saturday. The authorities said that they identified the drone visiting the Kinmen island on Saturday as a civil drone. 

Kinmen is only about ten kilometers to the east of Xiamen.

The guards at the outpost had reported the issue, but did not make any aggressive moves toward the drone, according to a video circulating on Chinese social media over the weekend.

It came around a week after the island authorities said on August 24 that they expelled a civilian drone that photographed a defense area in Kinmen county from a high altitude on August 16. 

When asked to comment on the reports of the civilian drone activity, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said at a routine press conference "Chinese drones flying over China's territory — what's there to be surprised at?"   

Although not confirming reports about the drones, White House National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby told reporters at a press conference on Monday that China is continuing to try to set a new normal for its activity toward Taiwan, including by sailing ships and flying aircraft over the unofficial median line in the Taiwan Straits, according to Reuters.
"They're trying to turn up the temperature to a degree where it becomes sort of this new normal, we're not going to accept it," Kirby was quoted as saying by Reuters.

Chinese experts slammed Kirby for hyping Chinese normal civilian legal activities and relating such moves to the Chinese government, which would only escalate the situation in the Straits at a time when tension between the two sides had already intensified following the provocative visit of US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to Taiwan island on August 2. 

It is legal for Chinese people to fly drones in the country's territory as long as it meets the requirement set by the Chinese authorities including the maximum altitude. The move does not violate any international laws either, Song Zhongping, a Chinese military expert and commentator told the Global Times on Tuesday.

Any regulations banning drone flying in the Kinmen county set by the Taiwan authorities would not be valid, because Taiwan is a part of China and the Taiwan authorities have no legislative rights, analysts said.

In the video showing the drone flying to the Kinmen island on August 16, some guards came out of the outpost after they found the drone. Some of the guards tried to drive the drone away by throwing stones at it. 

Citing netizens, some media in Taiwan island claimed that the video was filmed by a drone sent by the PLA and was also released to social media platforms by the PLA. Amid heated discussion, an influencer on Weibo said on Wednesday that the drone footage was released by a blogger instead of the PLA.  

The PLA has military drones for various purposes and these military drones are vastly superior to civilian drones in many aspects such as the capacity to resist jamming. So it is impossible the PLA would use civilian drones to conduct military operations, Song noted.

Civilian drones from the mainland able to fly to Kinmen only exposed the Taiwan armed forces' weak defense capabilities, observers said.

Amid the reports of the drones, Taiwan authorities announced they are prioritizing equipping outposts in the island after they establish a defense system against drones. The authorities also approved a largely increase in the defense budget for the upcoming year, which some media reported that much of it would likely be used to buy drones and establish related systems. 

Even if the system was established, it probably would be only able to intercept civilian drones. It would be useless when faced with the PLA's military drones as the PLA's drones are very strong in resisting interference, Song explained.  

Many PLA drones are capable of both reconnaissance and attack. If the Taiwan authorities take action, like launching anti-air missiles or firing anti-air artilleries, such drones would take countermeasures including attacking the Taiwan authorities' origins of attacks. The Taiwan authorities must think twice before attacking a mainland drone, analysts said.