China’s unwelcome Lunar New Year gift to Taiwan was an enormous swarm of mysterious balloons, with 16 of them crossing the median line of the Taiwan Strait since Friday. At least six of the balloons passed directly over northern and central Taiwan.
The balloons were traveling at altitudes between 12,000 to 35,000 feet. The sightings on Friday and Saturday brought the total number of Chinese balloons detected around Taiwan since December to 83.
The number of balloon incidents increased noticeably in the run-up to Taiwan’s presidential election on January 13, which was won by anti-Communist candidate William Lai Ching-te, vice-president and chosen successor to outgoing President Tsai Ing-wen.
The Taiwanese Defense Ministry was reluctant to comment on the Chinese balloons, although officials said the six balloons that passed over Taiwan’s land mass on Saturday were a one-day record for such overflights.
Private security analysts told the South China Morning Post (SCMP) on Monday that the objects might well be weather balloons with standard meteorological equipment — but they could still be gathering useful intelligence about Taiwan for the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) of China and seemingly fit into Beijing’s “gray zone” strategy of exhausting and demoralizing Taiwan by applying constant pressure that never quite rises to the level of explicit military provocation.
“After sending warplanes into our air defense identification zone, the PLA has gone a step further by sending a series of balloons across the median line,” Senior Analyst Chieh Chung of the National Policy Foundation in Taipei told the SCMP.
This means that the PLA has tried to ‘interiorize’ the Taiwan Strait by first denying the existence of the median line and then our jurisdiction over our air space. The PLA not only wants to squeeze our air space but also intends to create a new status quo where there is no legal boundary between the two sides of the Taiwan Strait.
Chieh was referring to the longstanding, informal understanding that the median line of the Taiwan Strait served as a barrier to prevent provocations and misunderstandings. China’s ships and planes generally stayed on their side of the median line, and so did Taiwan’s.
China formally rejected the median line in April 2023 and said it would no longer hesitate to send PLA warplanes across the middle of the Taiwan Strait. Over the past two years, China has sent large groups of military aircraft into Taiwan’s Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ), an area that extends beyond a country’s territorial airspace and is normally politely avoided by foreign military aircraft.
China’s aerial incursions are demoralizing because they reinforce the point that Taiwan has no territorial imperatives that Beijing needs to respect. On a practical level, the “gray zone” incursions exhaust the much smaller Taiwanese air force by constantly forcing it to respond.
Retired Taiwanese Air Force General Chang Yen-ting reminded the SCMP that a weather balloon can easily do double duty as a spy balloon:
The PLA will be able to learn about wind directions, air and sea currents, cold and hot fronts, temperatures, humidity and jet currents at different altitudes around Taiwan at different times. This will facilitate its planning not only in the air but also for sea attacks on Taiwan.
As with the notorious Chinese spy balloon incursion over the United States in February 2023, analysts said Taiwan would be reluctant to shoot the Chinese balloons down because debris could cause damage and civilian casualties on the ground.
WATCH — UFO or Elon Musk? Witness Shares Initial Thoughts After Reportedly Seeing Chinese Balloon
Chase Doak via Storyful https://www.breitbart.com/asia/2024/02/12/china-floods-taiwan-with-mysterious-balloons-for-lunar-new-year/