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Three Chinese balloons float near Taiwanese airbase

Four Chinese balloons have reportedly floated over the Taiwan Strait, three of them crossing over the island’s land mass and near its Ching-Chuan-Kang air base before disappearing, according to the Taiwan’s defense ministry.

An appearance of a similar Chinese balloon caused quite a stir in the US last February (see sidebar).

The three that passed over land held altitudes between 12 and 23 kilometers. The balloons were accompanied by People’s Liberation Army (PLA) aircraft and navy (PLAN) vessels, according to the Ministry. Two of the aircraft crossed over into Taiwanese airspace, and by Thursday, the ministry had detected six ships.

“The Chinese military uses mission aircraft, ships and shore-based missile systems to closely monitor and respond,” wrote the governemnt org.

The presence of PLA aircraft and PLAN vessels near Taiwan occurs regularly, and the ministry is prone to daily updates on the count. Balloons are also often detected near the island, however it is unusual for them to cross above land.

In the past, Taiwan has described the balloons as weather monitoring devices. However the defense ministry reportedly declined to comment on what it thinks the latest set of balloons are being used for.

The appearance of the balloons over land occurred a little more than a week before Taiwan’s January 13 presidential and parliamentary elections.

A week before the balloons appeared, China’s defense spokesperson, Wu Qian, argued that Taiwan “deliberately hyped up the so-called mainland military threat and played up the tension for the sake of seeking electoral benefits.”

China claims that Taiwan is part of its territory. Chinese Communist Party (CCP) rhetoric has increasingly included the desire for the “reunification” of Taiwan and China.

“China will surely be reunified, and all Chinese on both sides of the Taiwan Strait should be bound by a common sense of purpose and share in the glory of the rejuvenation of the Chinese nation,” declared Xi Jinping in his New Year’s address, according to a government website.

However, media publications have noticed that translation takes some liberties. Reuters clocked the phrase as “The reunification of the motherland is a historical inevitability.” ®