A Chinese military surveillance balloon was spotted crossing the median line of the Taiwan Strait on Friday, according to the Taiwanese defense ministry, amid growing military threats from communist China.
Taiwan’s Defense Minister Chiu Kuo-cheng told reporters that while the ministry considered the possibility of it being a weather balloon, they believed it was their obligation to make the public aware of the incident.
“Otherwise, if after other units or other countries have reported it, everyone will wonder why [we] did not report it. The defense ministry requires all our subordinate units to have a grasp of the enemy situation,” Mr. Chiu said.
Taiwan’s military also spotted 26 Chinese fighter jets around the island at around 6 a.m. local time, 15 of which crossed the median line and entered Taiwan’s southwest air defense identification zone (ADIZ).
Taiwan to Shoot Down Balloon Posing ThreatThe possibility of China using balloons for spying gained global attention in February when the United States shot down what it said was a Chinese surveillance balloon.
It was first spotted in Montana, one of three U.S. states where the nuclear missile fields are based. The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) said it was a civilian airship that had been blown off course.
In a Bloomberg interview on Feb. 13, defense ministry spokesperson Sun Li-fang said Taiwan will take appropriate measures against new threats, “including shooting threats down, according to the level of concern.”
“The ministry has rules in terms of response and will continue revising the rules in a timely manner to respond to new threats such as balloons,” the spokesperson told the news outlet.
Taiwan’s Upcoming ElectionTaiwan is on high alert for Chinese activities ahead of its election, especially what Taipei views as Beijing’s efforts to interfere in the ballot to get electors to vote for candidates the CCP may prefer.
Taiwan holds presidential and parliamentary polls on Jan. 13, and campaigning has kicked into high gear with how the next government handles relations with China—a major point of contention.
Vice President Lai Ching-te and running mate Hsiao Bi-khim from the ruling Democratic Progressive Party are leading in the polls. The CCP views them as separatists and has rebuffed Mr. Lai’s offers of talks.
Taiwan has been a self-governing democracy since the Chinese Civil War ended in 1949. Still, the CCP regards Taiwan as a breakaway province that must be united with mainland China by any means necessary.
In September 2022, Taiwan’s military shot down an unidentified civilian drone that invaded its airspace as the CCP increased military drills near Taiwan in retaliation against then-U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan in August of that year.
“They repeatedly ignored our warnings to leave, and we had no choice but to exercise self-defense and shoot,” Taiwanese Premier Su Tseng-chang said at the time. “This is the most appropriate reaction after repeated restraint and warnings.”