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Record 6 Chinese balloons in 24 hours detected flying across Taiwan

02/11/2024 03:21 PM
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Taipei, Feb. 11 (CNA) A record six Chinese balloons flew across Taiwan between 6 a.m. Saturday and 6 a.m. Sunday, according to the Ministry of National Defense (MND).

In its daily report on Chinese military activities, the MND said the six balloons were among eight that crossed the median line of the Taiwan Strait during the 24-hour period.

The eight balloons were detected between 10:05 a.m. to 3:34 p.m. Saturday at altitudes ranging from 12,000 feet to 35,000 feet, the MND said.

Of the six that crossed Taiwan, some flew over northern Keelung City and while others flew near central Taichung City, the MND added.

The MND did not comment on the type of balloons involved or say why Beijing had sent them across the median line.

The median line in the Taiwan Strait served for decades as a tacit border, but China's military has more freely sent aircraft warships and drones across it since former United States House Speaker Nancy Pelosi visited Taiwan in August 2022.

Since the beginning of 2024, Beijing has also begun sending balloons over Taiwan, according to the MND.

Saturday and Sunday marked the first day and second day of the New Lunar Year of the Dragon, which is celebrated on both sides of the Taiwan Strait as well as by Chinese diaspora communities across the globe.

A military spokesman said this January that the daily sending of balloons to Taiwan was part of Chinese "gray zone" tactics in the lead-up to the presidential and legislative elections day on Jan. 13 and meant to "harass and rattle the Taiwanese people."

Taiwan's military has generally assessed the balloons as being for meteorological purposes, a conclusion drawn in part from its investigation of balloon debris found in February 2023 around Dongyin islet.

The MND said last year that similar equipment has been regularly detected in the air and sea around Taiwan, most often between December and February, because seasonal winds bring the balloons closer to Taiwan.

Speaking during a Jan. 9 MND press event, Colonel Wang Chia-chun (王家駿), deputy head of MND's joint operations planning section, said shooting down the balloons would be "a waste of ammunition" and the exact response China wants from Taiwan.

He added that Taiwan's standard military response was to issue alerts to the relevant authorities and to closely monitor the balloons' movements, particularly if they are found to be flying near more densely populated areas.

(By Joseph Yeh)

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