Taiwan Spots Record 8 Chinese Balloons Over Island for 2nd Straight Day

Dorothy Li
By Dorothy Li
February 11, 2024China News
Taiwan Spots Record 8 Chinese Balloons Over Island for 2nd Straight Day
Honor guards fold a Taiwanese flag during a flag lowering ceremony at the Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall in Taipei, Taiwan, on April 5, 2023. (Sam Yeh/AFP via Getty Images)

Eight Chinese balloons crossed the Taiwan Strait in the 24 hours leading to Sunday morning, the defense ministry in Taipei said, the second day in a row it has tracked an uptick in Chinese activity.

Five of the eight balloons crossed over the main island of Taiwan, according to the ministry’s daily report on the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) military activities.

Taiwan’s defense ministry didn’t offer details about what type of Chinese craft was involved.

The potential for the CCP to use high-altitude balloons to surveil other countries came into focus last February when the United States shot down a suspected Chinese balloon that had traversed the U.S. continent.

The White House disclosed that the CCP’s balloon program was linked to its military.

“We were able to determine that China has a high-altitude balloon program for intelligence collection that’s connected to the People’s Liberation Army,” the U.S. National Security Council Coordinator for Strategic Communications John Kirby said at a press conference at the time. “We know that these surveillance balloons have crossed over dozens of countries on multiple continents around the world, including some of our closest allies and partners.”

Taiwan began to include data on Chinese balloon sightings in its daily reports on CCP’s military activities in December 2023, though the ministry noted that China had for years sent balloons near the self-governed island.

The CCP claims Taiwan as its own territory to be taken by force if necessary, and its top leader, Xi Jinping, has vowed to achieve “reunification” with democratically governed Taiwan, even as the CCP has never ruled the island.

‘Grey Zone’ Tactics

On Saturday, Taiwan also tracked eight Chinese balloons crossing the Taiwan Strait’s median line in the past 24 hours. That set a daily record for Chinese balloons floating near Taiwan since Taipei’s ministry began releasing such data last December.

The median line of the Strait once served as an unofficial boundary between Taipei and Beijing, which was drawn by the U.S. military decades ago to ease tensions between the two neighbors. The CCP said that line didn’t exist, and its military planes frequently overflew it.

The increase in Chinese balloons toward Taiwan occurred as families in Taiwan and China were celebrating the Lunar New Year, which arrived on Saturday.

Last month, Taiwan condemned Beijing for repeatedly sending balloons crossing the strait, saying they are a threat to aviation safety.

The Ministry’s official described the balloons as part of the CCP’s “grey zone” tactics against Taiwan “in an attempt to use cognitive warfare to affect the morale of our people.”

Taiwan will closely monitor the balloon’s movement, but shutting down the crafts is “a waste of ammunition,” Col. Wang Chia-chun, a senior official at the ministry, told a regular briefing on Jan. 9, adding that such a response was exactly what the CCP wanted Taipei to have.

Beijing dismissed Taipei’s complaints, saying private companies launched most balloons.

“Hundreds of thousands” of high-attitude balloons fly around the world every day,” Chen Binhua, a spokesperson for China’s Taiwan Affairs Office, said at a Jan. 31 briefing. “The floating balloons are mostly used for people’s livelihood purposes, such as meteorological monitoring. They have a long history and are nothing new.”

On Sunday, Taiwan’s defense ministry also detected six Chinese aircraft and four vessels operating around the island over the past 24 hours.

In recent years, the CCP has rapped up military pressures on Taiwan, sending warplanes and warships near the island almost daily. In 2022, Beijing flew a total of 1,737 military aircraft into international airspace near Taiwan, representing a 79 percent increase from the 972 incursions a year earlier, according to the Pentagon’s annual report on China’s military, citing data from Taiwan’s defense ministry.

In a setback to Beijing, Taiwan last month elected Lai Ching-te from the ruling Democratic Progressive Party as its new president. Mr. Lai, who currently serves as Taiwan’s vice president, pledged to maintain the status quo, but Beijing labeled him a dangerous separatist. Mr. Lai will take office in May.

From The Epoch Times

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