TAIPEI (Reuters) - Taiwan's military fired flares on Thursday to warn away a drone that "glanced by" a strategically-located and heavily fortified island close to the Chinese coast that was possibly probing its defences, the Taiwanese Defence Ministry said.
Taiwan, claimed by China as its own territory, has complained of stepped up Chinese military manoeuvres over the past two years or so to try and force the democratically elected government in Taipei to accept Beijing's sovereignty.
The ministry said the drone twice "glanced by" the air space of Dongyin island, part of the Matsu archipelago off the coast of China's Fujian province and controlled by Taiwan since the end of the Chinese civil war in 1949.
The ministry added that it was "not ruling out" that the drone was probing the island's defences to see what reaction it generated.
The Dongyin command fired flares at the drone to warn it away, the ministry said, without identifying it further.
A senior official familiar with the security planning in the region told Reuters that it was a Chinese drone, likely one of the country's new CSC-005 drones.
There was no immediate comment from China’s Defence Ministry.
This is the second such incident near Dongyin this year.
In February, a small Chinese civilian aircraft flew very close to the same island in what Taiwan described as China possibly trying a new strategy to test its reactions.
Taiwan does not publish details of its military presence there, but the Dongyin Area Command has been at the front line of Taiwan's defences since the 1950s.
It is the northernmost territory Taiwan holds, sitting at the top end of the Taiwan Strait, a choke point through which at least part of any Chinese invading force would have to traverse.
Military experts believe Dongyin's forces are equipped with Taiwan's self-made Hsiung Feng II anti-ship missile as well as Sky Bow II surface-to-air missiles.
(Reporting by Yimou Lee; writing by Ben Blanchard; editing by Philippa Fletcher)