By Li Jiaqi, Vision Times Staff
The communist People’s Liberation Army (PLA) continues its military intimidation against Taiwan. The Republic of China (Taiwan) Ministry of National Defense reported on Jan. 27 that from 6:00 AM on the 26th to 6:00 AM on the 27th, the Taiwan military detected 33 instances of Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) aerial patrols and six naval sorties operating persistently in the vicinity of the Taiwan Strait.
Among these, the Communist Chinese forces made 13 aerial crossings of the median line between Taiwan and mainland China, including along extensions of the line to the southwest and north. Additionally, two drifting balloons were detected from the mainland.
The newest moves by the PLA came amidst a meeting between People’s Republic of China (PRC) Foreign Minister Wang Yi and White House National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan.
The balloons were observed drifting across the Taiwan Strait at altitudes of around 60,000 ft and 51,000 ft, but disappeared before reaching Taiwan itself.
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Air-sea operations by the PLA directed at and around Taiwan have been standard fare in recent years, as the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) takes a more hardline stance against the ROC, which Beijing regards as an illegitimate rebel government.
Prior to 1949, the Republic of China governed the mainland, but was forced to retreat to Taiwan and several surrounding minor islands after losing a long civil war to the CCP military.
The ROC military closely monitors and responds to the PLA provocations using surveillance aircraft, naval assets, and land-based missile systems.
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Amid the CCP’s escalating military pressure on Taiwan, White House National Security Advisor Sullivan met with PRC Foreign Minister Wang Yi in Bangkok, Thailand. The White House stated that Sullivan emphasized the need for both the U.S. and China to prevent competition from escalating into conflict or confrontation.
The White House mentioned that Sullivan and Wang discussed cross-strait issues, with Sullivan underscoring the importance of maintaining peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait.
Regarding the continuous use of balloons by the CCP to harass the airspace around Taiwan, and even directly over Taiwan, Shu Xiaohuang, Deputy Researcher at the ROC National Defense Institute, analyzed that due to prevailing wind directions, this time favors the CCP’s use of balloons to harass Taiwan. Dealing with balloons during peacetime is relatively challenging, as shooting them down on land might endanger civilians with falling debris, whether from the balloons themselves or the projectiles used to destroy them.
However, the Taiwanese military may consider shooting down a few spy balloons at sea for subsequent intelligence analysis, Shu said.
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Shu noted that the current sea conditions around the Taiwan Strait pose some difficulties for naval exercises, but the air domain remains unaffected. Therefore, the CCP may be using drifting balloons to harass Taiwan.
Chen Wenjia, Senior Consultant of Taiwan’s National Policy Research Institute, also suggested that given the CCP’s failure to influence Taiwan’s recent presidential election, using high-altitude balloons to gather atmospheric data and information on ground military deployments over Taiwan may be an intelligence attempt in preparation for future rocket and missile launches.
The Liberty Times reported that at a press conference on Jan. 26, Coordinator for Strategic Communications at the White House John Kirby was asked about the more than 54 PRC high-altitude balloons crossing the median line since Dec. 7 of last year, with around half entering Taiwan’s airspace and 16 balloons flying over Taiwan itself.
Kirby confirmed that the U.S. was aware of the surveillance balloons, especially around the time of the Taiwan elections. He emphasized that the PRC government needed to be transparent about the purpose of its balloon flights.
He also reiterated the U.S. position that the right of the Taiwanese people to conduct free and fair elections should not be interfered with.