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DEFENSE/Balloons crossing over to Taiwan side not released from PLA boats: MND

02/18/2024 01:59 PM
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Graphic: Ministry of National Defense Feb. 18, 2024
Graphic: Ministry of National Defense Feb. 18, 2024

Taipei, Feb. 18 (CNA) None of the Chinese balloons found crossing the median line of the Taiwan Strait were released from the People's Liberation Army's (PLA) warships, Taiwan's military said Sunday.

The Ministry of National Defense's (MND) clarification came after a news report published by the Chinese-language China Times on Saturday quoted an unnamed source as saying that Taiwan's armed forces recently found some of the Chinese balloons were released from PLA vessels conducting drills at seas around Taiwan.

The China Times report said this showed the PLA was intentionally releasing these balloons to disrupt Taiwan's air and sea defense.

The MND has previously said most of the Chinese balloons were from coastal Chinese Fujian and Guangzhou provinces and were released for meteorological purposes.

In its statement issued on Sunday, the MND labeled the China Times report as "erroneous" and said it has so far found no evidence of Chinese balloons being released from PLA warships.

The MND said last year that similar balloons have been detected by the military on a regular basis in airspace around or above Taiwan, most often between the months of December and February, because seasonal winds bring them closer to Taiwan.

But this year the number of detected balloons has significantly increased, with as many as eight balloons found flying toward the Taiwan side of the strait on Feb. 10, including six flying over Taiwan proper, according to the MND.

Meanwhile, the defense ministry said Sunday that it found another two Chinese balloons crossing the median line of the Taiwan Strait on Saturday morning.

The two balloons that were seen flying above Taiwan were detected crossing the median line at 63 and 69 nautical miles northwest of Keelung in northern Taiwan. They were flying at altitudes of 25,000 and 17,000 feet.

In addition, seven Chinese warships, one of them crossing the median line of the strait, and five PLA naval vessels were detected operating near Taiwan between 6 a.m. Saturday to 6 a.m. Sunday.

The median line in the Taiwan Strait served for decades as a tacit border between the two sides of the strait. However, China's military has sent aircraft, drones, and balloons across it in the past three years due to deteriorating cross-strait ties.

(By Joseph Yeh)


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