A long-range Chinese combat drone capable of carrying a large weapons payload has circled Taiwan, the island’s defence ministry said on Friday.
Democratic Taiwan lives under constant threat of an attack by Beijing, which views the island as part of its territory.
Taiwan’s defence ministry said it detected 38 Chinese aircraft, including a TB-001 drone nicknamed the “twin-tailed scorpion”, around the island between 6am Thursday and 6am Friday.
The drone’s circling flight path took it across the median line — an unofficial boundary dividing the Taiwan Strait — to the island’s south before flying around its east coast and returning to China, a map released by the ministry showed.
Local media said it was the first time Taiwan’s defence ministry had reported a Chinese military aircraft circling the island from one end of the median line to the other.
The ministry added that 19 of the aircraft had “crossed the median line of the Taiwan Strait or entered Taiwan’s southwest, southeast, and northeast (air defence identification zone)”, or ADIZ, the highest number of incursions since China ended three days of war games earlier this month.
The zone is not the same as Taiwan’s territorial airspace and includes a far greater area that overlaps with part of China’s own ADIZ and even some of the mainland.
The TB-001 is one of the largest drones in China’s arsenal and boasts a flight range of 6,000 kilometres.
China previously deployed the drone during the military drills that ended on April 10 and involved simulating targeted strikes and a blockade of Taiwan.
The war games were a response to Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen’s visit to the United States, where she met Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy.