Taipei (Reuters) – A new type of Chinese combat drone that China’s state media says can carry a heavy weapons payload has flown around Taiwan, the island’s defence ministry said on Friday, in the latest uptick in military tensions.
China, which views democratically governed Taiwan as its own territory, has increased military pressure on the island over the past three years as it tries to force Taipei to accept Beijing’s sovereignty claims.
This month China staged war games around Taiwan after Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen met in Los Angeles with U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Kevin McCarthy.
Taiwan’s defence ministry, in its daily update of Chinese military activities from the previous 24 hours, said 19 military aircraft had entered the island’s air defence identification zone.
One of those aircraft was a TB-001 drone, which flew around Taiwan, first crossing the Bashi Channel that separates Taiwan from the Philippines, then up the east of Taiwan before crossing back toward the Chinese coast, according to a map provided by the ministry.
Chinese state media has referred to the TB-001 as the “twin-tailed scorpion” and has shown pictures of it with missiles under its wings, saying it is capable of high altitude, long-range missions.
China’s air force has flown what it calls “island encirclement” missions with the nuclear-capable H-6 bomber.
No shots were fired and Chinese aircraft have not flown in Taiwan’s airspace. The air defence identification zone, or ADIZ, is a broader area Taiwan monitors and patrols to give its forces more time to respond to threats.
Chinese military aircraft have since last year regularly crossed the median line of the Taiwan Strait, which normally serves as an unofficial barrier between the two sides, though China says it does not recognise this.
Taiwan’s government rejects China’s sovereignty claims and says only the island’s people can decide their future.