At least 12 Chinese fighter jets and hot air balloons crossed the Taiwan Strait ahead of the independent island’s presidential election. Photo/Illustration/Sindonews
TAIPEI – Tensions in the Taiwan Strait have increased in the past month ahead of the presidential election on the independent island. The Taiwanese side revealed that 12 Chinese fighter jets and a weather balloon crossed the median line of the Taiwan Strait.
Democratically ruled Taiwan, which China claims as its territory, has for the past four years complained about routine Chinese patrols and military exercises near the island.
Taiwan will hold presidential and parliamentary elections on January 13 and campaigning has reached fever pitch as how the next government handles relations with China will be a key debate.
Taiwan’s Defense Ministry, which provided details of China’s mission late Thursday, said 12 fighter jets had crossed the median line, which once served as an unofficial barrier between the two sides but is now frequently flown over by Chinese aircraft.
In an unusual addition to its statement, the ministry said that around noon on Thursday it also detected a Chinese balloon 187 km southwest of the city of Keelung in northern Taiwan, which traveled eastward for about an hour, crossing the strait before disappearing.
Taiwanese Defense Minister Chiu Kuo-cheng told reporters in parliament that their “initial understanding” was that it was likely a weather balloon, but they felt the ministry had an obligation to report this to the public.
“Otherwise, after other units or other countries report it, everyone will wonder why (we) didn’t report it. “The Ministry of Defense requires all our subordinate units to understand the enemy’s situation,” he added as quoted by Reuters, Friday (8/12/2023).
China’s Ministry of Defense did not respond to a request for comment on this matter.
The potential for China to use balloons for spying became a global issue in February when the United States (US) shot down what it said was a Chinese surveillance balloon, but which China said was a civilian balloon that accidentally got lost.