BEIJING/TAIPEI (REUTERS) - China on Monday (Aug 29) dismissed complaints from Taiwan about repeated harassment by Chinese drones very close to Taiwanese-controlled islands as not anything "to make a fuss about", prompting Taipei to label Beijing as nothing more than thieves.
Since China began war games and military drills near Taiwan earlier this month after the visit of US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to the Chinese-claimed island, the government in Taipei has reported repeated flights by drones on islets it controls close to the Chinese coast.
Video from at least two of these drone missions has circulated widely on Chinese social media. In one, Taiwanese soldiers can be seen throwing rocks to ward it away.
Speaking at a daily briefing, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said he had seen the footage. "Chinese drones flying about Chinese territory, this is not something to make a fuss about," he said.
Taiwan's foreign ministry expressed anger at his comments. "There is an ancient Chinese teaching that 'uninvited people are called thieves'. Whether it is breaking through the door or peeping from the air, the people of Taiwan do not welcome such thieves," it said.
Taiwan's defence ministry reported a further drone incursion on Monday, near the tiny Lion Islet, part of the Kinmen group of islands that sit opposite the Chinese cities of Xiamen and Quanzhou. It said soldiers fired flares to warn it away and after one minute it flew off in the direction of Xiamen.
White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby would not confirm reports about the drones but told reporters that China continued to try to set a "new normal" for its activity toward Taiwan, including by sailing ships and flying aircraft over the unofficial median line in the Taiwan Strait.
"They're trying to turn up the temperature to a degree where it becomes sort of this new normal," Kirby said. "We're not going to accept it."
Two US Navy warships sailed through international waters in the Taiwan Strait on Sunday, the first such operation since Pelosi's visit, though it has been conducting similar passages on a monthly basis.
Taiwan has controlled Kinmen, along with the Matsu islands further up China's coast, since the defeated Republic of China government fled to Taipei after losing a civil war with Mao Zedong's Communists in 1949.
At its closest point, Chinese-controlled territory is only a few hundred metres from Kinmen. China has vowed to bring Taiwan under its rule, by force if necessary.