Taiwan says it has not detected any Chinese spy balloons in airspace

Beijing, Feb 14 (EFE).- Taiwan’s defense ministry said Tuesday that the island had not detected any spy balloons from China in its airspace amid regional concern about the crisis triggered between Washington and Beijing over these devices.

Major General Huang Wen-chi, of the Office of Deputy Chief of the General Staff on Intelligence, said at a press conference that the balloons from China that the island detects “are in accordance with the number of weather balloons it sends each year.”

The military had not found any of the balloons to pose a serious threat to Taiwan’s security but would shoot them down if they were found to do so, he added, state-run news agency CNA reported.

Huang said that he could not disclose the number of incursions detected “to avoid giving away the sources of our intelligence gathering.”

On Monday, UK’s Financial Times newspaper had reported, citing anonymous sources, that Chinese military balloons have flown through Taiwan’s airspace over the past few years.

On Feb. 4, the United States shot down a suspected Chinese surveillance balloon off the coast of South Carolina.

Since then, it has shot down three other flying objects in North America whose origin it has not yet been able to identify.

US President Joe Biden’s administration has accused China of developing a military espionage program through balloons sent to 40 countries on five continents.

The Feb.4 balloon incident has strained US-China relations, prompting Secretary of State Antony Blinken to cancel his planned trip to Beijing.

Last week, US intelligence officials told the Washington Post that the Chinese spy balloon was part of an extensive Chinese surveillance program to collect information on military assets in several countries and was operated by China’s armed forces, the People’s Liberation Army.

The surveillance balloons, which have operated for several years from Hainan province, off China’s southern coast, have collected information on military assets in countries and areas of emerging strategic interest to China, including Japan, India, Vietnam, Taiwan and the Philippines, according to the Post.

China has claimed that the balloon was merely a weather balloon that “went off course” due to unavoidable problems.

It has also said that over 10 US high-altitude balloons have flown in its airspace since the beginning of 2022.

China considers the self-ruled island of Taiwan a part of its territory to be seized by force if necessary.

Taiwan is one of the main sources of conflict between China and the US, mainly because Washington is Taipei’s key arms supplier and could be its greatest military ally in the event of a war with China. EFE


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