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Sky Intruders: Chinese Weather Spy Balloons Spark Tension Over Taiwan Strait.

| 2023

TAIPEI, Taiwan, December 20, 2023 - The Taiwanese Defence Ministry reported that on December 17, 2023, two suspected Chinese weather balloons were observed flying across the Taiwan Strait, marking the second such incident in December. These balloons remained to the north of Taiwan, avoiding direct overflight of the island but still raising concerns due to the politically sensitive nature of the area.
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A U.S. Air Force pilot looked down at the suspected Chinese surveillance balloon as it hovered over the Central Continental United States on February 3, 2023. (Picture source U.S. DoD)

This event follows a similar incident earlier in the month, where Taiwanese authorities detected and monitored similar aerial objects believed to be Chinese in origin. The repeated occurrences have intensified regional tensions, with Taiwan increasing its surveillance and readiness in response to what it perceives as escalating provocations.

Globally, the use of surveillance balloons has been a contentious issue. Earlier this year, several countries, including the United States, Canada, and India, reported unidentified flying objects, some later identified as surveillance balloons, crossing their airspace. These incidents have led to diplomatic standoffs, with affected countries demanding explanations and assurances of airspace sovereignty.

In the case of Taiwan, the situation is particularly delicate due to the island's disputed status and its strategic position in the South China Sea. China, claiming Taiwan as part of its territory, has not yet commented on the latest incident. However, in previous instances, Beijing has often attributed such occurrences to civilian or scientific purposes, dismissing allegations of espionage or territorial infringement.

Experts suggest that the use of weather balloons for surveillance purposes is part of a broader trend in international espionage, where nations employ seemingly innocuous methods to gather intelligence, avoiding direct confrontation or military escalation. These tactics, while less aggressive than traditional espionage methods, still pose significant challenges to global security and diplomatic relations.

The Taiwanese government has called for an international dialogue to address the use of surveillance balloons and similar technologies in disputed regions. Taiwan's Foreign Ministry stated, "Ensuring the security and stability of airspace above sensitive areas is crucial for maintaining peace and preventing misunderstandings or unintended consequences."

This latest incident over the Taiwan Strait serves as a reminder of the ongoing complexities and tensions in the region, highlighting the need for clear communication and agreed-upon norms in international airspace surveillance.

Defense News December 2023

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