China has reportedly used its fearsome “flying dragon” drone to pose a huge threat to Taiwan as tensions continue to escalate in the South China Sea. The craft reportedly entered Taiwan airspace on Thursday, just days after Chinese drones first crossed the Taiwan Strait’s median line.
Known as the Guizhou WZ-7, the high-tech weapon can perform aerial reconnaissance but can also provide guidance data for anti-ship ballistic missiles that have passed through Taiwan’s Southwest Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ), as a strong warning to China’s adversary.
Weapons of military equipment can travel long distances and are called “soaring dragon”. It was just one of several weapons recently discovered by the Taiwanese military. On Thursday, their forces tracked up to five Chinese warships and 26 Chinese warplanes around Taiwan.
But the Soaring Dragon was the first time the Taiwanese military had spotted such a device, and it was spotted alongside another drone called the Guizhou BZK-007. It reportedly flew close to the southwestern edge of the median line.
In response, the Taiwanese military reportedly sent out combat patrol aircraft that broadcast radio warnings and tracked Chinese aircraft with ground-based anti-aircraft missiles. But it comes amid fears that China is poised to invade an independent island nation over which Beijing says it should have sovereignty.
Ben Lewis, a U.S. military analyst who tracks Chinese military activity in the Taiwan Strait, warned that the UAV sighting is a sign that Beijing is conducting exercises for future missions as a warning to Taiwan as tensions with its rival soar.
He told the Telegraph: “Undoubtedly, UAVs have become and will continue to be a key element of PLA operations, so their use must be trained in the same way as any other platform. I think this moment is another example of the growing capabilities of the PLA and their willingness to use them.”
It also comes just weeks after the Taiwanese military said it would shoot down Chinese military UAVs that did not respond to their warnings. In August, Taiwanese forces reportedly opened fire on a Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) drone as it approached the Taiwanese-controlled Kinmen Islands.
The military said in a statement: “At around 5:59 p.m., the drone re-entered restricted airspace over Erdan Island. The Defense Forces issued warnings in accordance with protocol. As the drone continued to hover over the area, the defense forces opened fire and forced it to leave. The drone flew towards Xiamen around 18:00.”
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Taiwanese forces later said they would take the necessary action to “fight off” the drones by issuing radio warnings, firing flares and blowing whistles, but alerted drones would be “shot down” if they refused to leave.
The drone shooting marked the first time the Taiwanese military had taken such a step, but it came as China’s military exercises have intensified since the speaker of the US House of Representatives visited the island nation, sparking fury in Beijing.
But Zhao Lijian, a spokesman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry, says: “Chinese drones flying over Chinese territory are not something to fuss about.” However, Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen stated that the mission was likely an attempt to provoke Taipei.
However, Taiwan’s leader urged the nation to remain calm, but warned that he would respond to Chinese aggression with “strong countermeasures” if necessary. In fact, just days after Taiwan first shot down a Chinese drone, the military later released photos to the media showing off its brand new anti-drone weapon.
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Taiwan’s Ministry of National Defense also said the new anti-drone defense system will be deployed at its military bases by early next year, and plans to increase the overall defense budget to a record $19.4bn (£16.8bn). , which is 13.9% more than in 2022.
Paul Huang, a fellow at the Taiwan Public Opinion Foundation, a non-profit non-governmental think tank, told CNN:[China] doesn’t really see the problem yet, and I think they should, because it could lead to an escalation that they don’t want. If they want to control the situation, they better control these civilian drone operators first.”
But according to a US intelligence official, China plans to prepare its military for an invasion of Taiwan in 2027. CNN intelligence and national security correspondent Cathy Bo Lilly tweeted that CIA Deputy Director David Cohen told her that Chinese President Xi Jinping wants “to be able to take control of Taiwan by force by 2027.”
She quoted an official as saying that Mr. Jinping “asked his military to put him in a position where, if he wants it, he can do it.”