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China has reportedly used its terrifying “soaring dragon” drone in a huge threat to Taiwan as tension in the South China Sea continues to heat up. The vehicle reportedly entered Taiwan’s airspace on Thursday, just days after Chinese drones infiltrated the median line of the Taiwan Strait for the first time.
Known as the Guizhou WZ-7, the high-tech weapon can which carries out aerial reconnaissance but can also provide targeting data for anti-ship ballistic missiles passed through Taiwan’s southwest Air Defence Identification Zone (ADIZ) in a major warning to China’s adversary.
The weapon piece of military equipment can travel long distances and has been dubbed the “soaring dragon”. It was just one of several weapons that have been spotted recently by Taiwan’s military, with its forces tracking up to five Chinese warships and 26 Chinese military aircraft around Taiwan on Thursday.
But the “Soaring Dragon” sighting was the first time the Taiwanese military spotted such a device, and it was seen along with another drone, called the Guizhou BZK-007. It reportedly flew just off the southwestern edge of the median line.
Taiwan’s military reportedly responded by sending combat air patrol planes which broadcasted radio warnings while tracking the Chinese aircraft with land-based anti-aircraft missiles. But this comes amid fears that China is gearing up to invade the island nation which claims independence, which Beijing believes it should have sovereignty over.
Ben Lewis, a US-based defence analyst tracking Chinese military activities in the Taiwan Strait, warned that the UAV sighting is an indication that Beijing was running a practice drill for future missions as a warning to Taiwan as tension with its rival soars.
He told the Telegraph: “Undoubtedly, UAVs have become and will continue to be a focal element of PLA operations, and so their usage needs to be trained as much as any platform. I think that this moment is yet another example of the PLA’s growing capabilities, and their willingness to use them.”
This also comes just weeks after Taiwan’s military said it will shoot down Chinese military UAVs that do not respond to its warnings. In August, Taiwanese forces reportedly open-fired on a Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) drone after it approached the Taiwanese-controlled Kinmen Islands.
The military said in a statement: “At around 5:59 pm, a drone entered the restricted air space over Erdan Island once again. The defence forces issued warnings in accordance with protocol. Because the drone continued to hover over the area, the defence forces opened fire and forced it to leave. The drone flew towards Xiamen at around 6 pm.”
Taiwanese forces later said that take it will take the necessary actions to “drive away” drones by issuing radio warnings, firing signal flares and blowing whistles, but warned drones will be “shot down” if they refuse to depart.
The shooting of the drone marked the first time that Taiwan’s military has made such a move, but it comes as China’s military exercises have ramped up every since US Speaker of the House of Representatives visited the island nation, which sparked fury in Beijing.
But Zhao Lijian, the Chinese foreign ministry spokesman, claims: “Chinese drones flying about Chinese territory, this is not something to make a fuss about.” However, Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen said the mission was likely an attempt to provoke Taipei.
However, Taiwan’s leader urged the nation to stay calm but warned it will respond to Chinese aggression with “strong countermeasures” if necessary. In fact, just days after Taiwan shot down China’s drone for the first time, the military later released pictures to the media showcasing its brand-new anti-drone weapons.
Taiwan’s Ministry of National Defence has also said a new anti-drone system will be deployed at its military bases by the beginning of next year, while it also has plans to ramp up its overall defence budget to a record $19.4 billion (£16.8billion), a 13.9 percent boost from 2022.
Paul Huang, a research fellow at the Taiwanese Public Opinion Foundation, a non-profit, non-governmental think tank, told CNN: “[China] doesn’t really see a problem as of yet, which I think they should because this could lead to escalation that they didn’t want. If they want to be in control, they better control these civilian drone operators first.”
But according to a US intelligence official, China is planning to ready its military for an invasion of Taiwan in 2027. CNN intelligence and national security correspondent Katie Bo Lilli wrote on Twitter that David Cohen CIA Deputy Director informed her that Chinese President Xi Jinping wants “to have the capability to take control of Taiwan by force by 2027.”
She quoted the official saying that Mr Jinping “has asked his military to put him in a position where, if that’s what he wanted to do, he would be able to.”