In a notable development, Taiwan’s defense ministry revealed a remarkable increase in the number of Chinese balloons detected around the island, marking a record six instances. The ministry’s latest data, released on Monday, disclosed that one of the balloons was observed flying directly above the island, while the remaining five were sighted near the northern coastal city of Keelung and in the airspace above southern Pingtung county.
The balloons, all detected on a single day, Sunday, were observed at altitudes ranging from 15,000 feet to 17,000 feet. This surge represents the highest number of balloon sightings since the defense ministry began regularly releasing data on such occurrences back in December.
China’s persistent claim over democratic Taiwan as its own territory, coupled with its explicit refusal to renounce the use of force to bring the self-ruled island under its control, has heightened tensions in the region. In recent years, China has intensified military pressure by deploying warplanes and naval vessels around Taiwan almost daily.
This surge in balloon activity follows Taiwan’s recent presidential election, won by the Democratic Progressive Party’s Lai Ching-te, a figure Beijing considers a “separatist.” Prior to the vote, China issued warnings that Lai’s victory would result in “war and decline” for Taiwan. While an oversized deployment of warplanes and naval vessels did not immediately follow the election, the heightened presence of Chinese balloons raises concerns about China’s strategic intentions.
It’s noteworthy that the largest incursion since the election occurred last Thursday when 24 Chinese warplanes were detected around Taiwan, with 11 crossing a sensitive median line that separates the island from China, according to Taipei.
In a diplomatic setback for Taiwan, Pacific nation Nauru abruptly shifted its diplomatic recognition from Taiwan to China last week, leaving Taipei with only 12 official allies. This move underscores China’s multifaceted approach to assert dominance in the region.
The ballooning activity serves as a reminder of the complex geopolitical landscape in the Taiwan Strait. As tensions escalate, it remains to be seen how the international community will respond to these developments. The defense ministry’s vigilance in monitoring and reporting such incidents plays a crucial role in keeping the public informed about the dynamic situation in the region.