Taipei has warned Beijing against carrying out any military flights into Taiwanese airspace, vowing to treat any such intrusions as a “first strike,” according to Taiwan Defense Minister Chiu Kuo-cheng.
Addressing lawmakers at a meeting of the Legislature’s Foreign and National Defense Committee on Wednesday, Chiu said that any Chinese fighter jets or drones that cross into Taiwan’s territorial airspace will prompt a reaction from Taipei.
He recalled that in the past, Taipei vowed not to be the first to strike, unless the Chinese army fired the first artillery shells or missiles upon the self-governing island. “But now the definition has obviously changed, as China uses means such as drones. So, we have adjusted and will view any crossing of aerial entities as a first strike,” Chiu explained.
The minister didn’t specify how exactly Taipei intends to respond were Chinese aircraft to breach the island’s airspace, but stressed that Taiwan’s military “definitely has its red line” and will launch countermeasures once that line in the island’s defense is crossed.
Chiu also accused China of having “destroyed” a tacit agreement on military movements in the Taiwan Strait – the body of water that separates the island from mainland China – saying that Beijing’s forces have been deliberately crossing the unofficial “median line” and have “changed the status quo” and established a “new normal.”
Taipei’s warning comes after China bolstered its military pressure and conducted a series of military exercises around the self-governing island ever since tensions between Beijing and Taipei escalated in early August. The escalation was prompted by the visit to Taiwan of US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi, against repeated protests from the Chinese government.
Taiwan has been self-governed since 1949 but has never officially gained independence from China. Beijing considers the island a part of its territory under the One-China policy. Chinese President Xi Jinping has repeatedly stated China’s resolve to ensure a peaceful “reunification” with the island, but has not excluded a military solution to the issue.