- Taiwanese radar detected Chinese weather balloons flying over the cities of Keelung, Taoyuan and Hsinchu shortly after the Lunar New Year holiday in mid-February.
- The balloons have raised concerns after President Tsai Ing-wen put the island’s military on high alert in response to far-reaching impacts of the Russian invasion.
- Taiwan’s Air Force confirmed the news on Sunday but stressed that they posed no security threat and were only there for meteorological observations.
- A Taiwanese military expert commented that while the balloons may have been used for weather research, their true purpose is to help China develop a software that improves long-distance communication and radar detection performance.
- China has sent a total of 30 warplanes to Taiwan’s Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine began last Thursday.
In addition to sending fighter jets and other aircraft to Taiwan’s Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) for months, China also flew weather balloons to the island’s airspace in mid-February.
Taiwan’s Air Force confirmed the news on Sunday, saying that the balloons, which were operated by the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA), passed over shortly after the Lunar New Year holiday, according to Taipei Times.
Radar reportedly detected the balloons, which were seen flying in four groups, at an altitude of 2,743-3,048 meters (9,000-10,000 feet) above the cities of Keelung, Taoyuan and Hsinchu.
A long-range rocket unit of an artillery brigade of the PLA’s 72nd Group reportedly released the balloons. They have since caused security concerns, especially in light of President Tsai Ing-wen putting the island’s military on high alert against “foreign forces intending to manipulate the situation in Ukraine and affect the morale of Taiwanese society.”
Since Thursday — the day Russia began invading Ukraine — China has sent a total of 30 warplanes to Taiwan’s ADIZ, according to the island’s Ministry of National Defense (MND). Beijing has rejected comparisons between Taiwan and Ukraine while refusing to call Moscow’s action an “invasion.”
According to Institute for National Defense and Security Research analyst Su Tzu-yun, however, the balloons do not pose an immediate security threat, reported the Taipei Times.
“The Air Force has full grasp of the movements (of the balloons). It is believed they are being used for meteorological observations,” spokesman Shih Shun-wen said on Sunday, as per Focus Taiwan.
Lu Lishi, a former instructor in the Military Discipline Department of Taiwan’s Naval Academy, suggested that while the balloons could indeed be for weather research, their true purpose is to help China develop a software called Advanced Refractive Effects Prediction System (AREPS), United Daily News reported.
Using the balloons, the PLA can “compare and correct sounding data… and input meteorological environmental parameters,”Lu said. Ultimately, they would be able to harness meteorological data to improve long-distance communication and radar detection performance.
Meanwhile, the MND released a video on Sunday that assured the public of its strengthened capabilities and preparedness to deter China if Beijing decides to take advantage of the ongoing crisis in Ukraine.
“The military has continued to step up surveillance, remains alert 24/7 and is closely observing military activities across the Taiwan Strait. We are determined and capable of defending the country,” the MND said.
Featured Image via UDN