China Adds Pressure with Balloons

( – Taiwan has recently reported the sighting of six Chinese balloons floating over the island along with the presence of Chinese warplanes and navy ships in the vicinity. While the purpose behind these balloons remains unknown, they seem to have started flying over the island since the new year. The Defense Ministry included these balloon sightings in a report of Chinese Army activity in the waters and airspace surrounding Taiwan.

The explicit military function of these balloons remains uncertain, but they appear to be part of a larger campaign of harassment against Taiwan. The self-governed island is claimed by China as its own territory, and China has asserted its intent to reclaim it by force if necessary. In the lead-up to Taiwan’s recent presidential election, China had escalated such activities and threats.

The recent presidential election in Taiwan saw the independence-leaning Democratic Progressive Party securing a third consecutive term under Vice President William Lai. The pro-unification Nationalist Party gained only a tiny lead in the legislature over the DPP. Former Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je’s party mostly attracted votes from disillusioned young voters.

In the US last year, similar balloons were used by China that were spotted over the country. President Joe Biden pledged stricter regulations for monitoring and potentially intercepting unknown aerial objects. China labelled it a weather balloon, asserting it had drifted off course, and criticized the US for overreacting when it shot down the balloon, recovering what was claimed to be advanced surveillance equipment.

China’s intimidation tactics against Taiwan involve regular deployment of warships and planes in the island’s vicinity, often crossing the Taiwan Strait’s middle line. This pattern continued with the detection of four Chinese warplanes and navy ships around Taiwan over the last two weeks, prompting Taiwan’s military to monitor the situation closely.

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