Taiwan finds crashed weather balloon on remote island, likely Chinese

A surveillance balloon seen over Taiwan in September 2021. PHOTO: NYTIMES

TAIPEI - Taiwan’s military said on Thursday that it had found the remains of a probable crashed weather balloon, likely from China, on a remote and strategically located island near the Chinese coast.

This comes amid a dispute between China and the United States over spy balloons.

China regards Taiwan as a renegade province to be reunified, by force if necessary. Taipei has complained of increased harassment by Beijing’s armed forces over the past three years, including fighter jets flying near the island and drones buzzing offshore islets.

Taiwan’s army said that late on Thursday morning, its forces on Dongyin island, part of the Taiwan-controlled Matsu archipelago off the coast of China’s Fuzhou, observed an unknown object falling from the sky, then found the remnants of a balloon on a shooting range.

The sphere is about 1m in diameter with an instrument box marked with simplified Chinese characters – which are used in China but not Taiwan – and the wording “Taiyuan Radio No. 1 Factory Co, Ltd”, “GTS13 digital atmospheric sounding instrument” and “meteorological instrument”, the army said.

Taiyuan is a major city in northern China. Reuters was not immediately able to locate contacts for the factory.

“The preliminary investigation determined that the remains were of a meteorological detecting instrument, which have been collected by the relevant departments for further evaluation,” Taiwan’s army said in a short statement.

Taiwan’s defence ministry said on Tuesday that it had not spotted any surveillance balloons from China in its vicinity, as a dispute between China and the US over spy balloons triggers worries about rising military tensions.

Dongyin sits at the top of the Taiwan Strait on an important passage for any southbound Chinese forces from the eastern province of Zhejiang if they attack Taiwan, and the island is well defended.

In 2022, Taiwan said a small, propeller-driven Chinese aircraft flew very close to Dongyin in what the government said they suspected was China deploying a civilian aircraft to test the responses of the Taiwanese military.

China also deployed drones to buzz Taiwan-controlled islands near the Chinese coast last August when Beijing staged war games near Taiwan, which ended only after Taiwanese forces shot one down. REUTERS

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