Taiwan says it has detected a record number of eight Chinese balloons

(Taipei) Taiwan’s Defense Ministry said Saturday it had detected a record number of eight Chinese balloons around Taiwan, including two that flew directly over the island.

The aircraft were all spotted on Friday, on the eve of the Lunar New Year celebrated on both sides of the Taiwan Strait, at an altitude between 4,500 and 11,600 m, according to the same source.

This is the largest number of balloons detected by the ministry since its first regular publications of data on the observation of devices of this type, in December.

Beijing considers the democratic and autonomous island of Taiwan as part of its territory and has never renounced using force to regain control.

In recent years, China has increased its military pressure and deployed combat planes and warships around the island almost daily.

In February 2023, the Taiwanese army alerted aviation authorities after detecting a balloon flying over Taiwan’s airspace, but did not communicate either the origin of the aircraft or its exact location.

This new discovery of balloons comes as the Taiwanese presidential election was won in January by Lai Ching-te of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), seen by Beijing as a “separatist”.

Ahead of the vote, Beijing had warned that a victory for Mr. Lai would lead Taiwan to “war” and “decline”.

Since the January 13 election, the largest incursions noted have been those of 33 Chinese fighter planes, a number detected twice in January around Taiwan.

Eight days after the presidential election, the Taiwanese Defense had spotted six balloons, then a record for these aircraft.

One hundred and three Beijing combat planes were spotted in the surrounding skies in September in the space of 24 hours.

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