Taiwan finds crashed weather balloon on remote island, likely Chinese
TAIPEI (Reuters) – Taiwan’s military said on Thursday it had found the remains of a likely crashed weather balloon probably shipped from China on a remote and strategically located island near the Chinese coast, amid a dispute between China and the United States over spy balloons.
Taiwan, which is claimed by China as its own territory, has complained about increasing harassment from Beijing’s forces over the past three years, including warplanes flying near the island and drones buzzing near offshore islands.
Taiwan’s army said its forces saw an unidentified object fall from the sky late Thursday morning on Dongyin Island, part of the Taiwan-controlled Matsu Archipelago off the coast of China’s Fuzhou, and then found the remains of a balloon at a shooting range.
The sphere is about 1 meter in diameter and has an instrument case with simplified Chinese characters – used in China but not Taiwan – and the inscription “Taiyuan Radio No. 1 Factory Co., Ltd.”, “GTS13 digital datmospheric sounding instrument” and “meteorological instrument,” the army said.
Taiyuan is a major city in northern China. Reuters was not immediately able to find contacts for the factory.
“Preliminary investigation revealed that the remains were a meteorological detection tool collected by relevant departments for further analysis,” Taiwan’s army said in a brief statement.
Defense Minister Chiu Kuo-cheng told reporters in Parliament Friday morning that the ministry had dispatched a team to investigate the downed balloon.
“The national army … will not jump to conclusions just by looking at appearances. Answers will only be given after an investigation,” he said.
Taiwan’s defense ministry said Tuesday it had not spotted any surveillance balloons from China near it, as a dispute between China and the United States over spy balloons sparked concerns about rising military tensions.
Located at the top of the Taiwan Strait, Dongyin is a key passage for any Chinese forces southbound from eastern Zhejiang Province when attacking Taiwan, and the island is well defended.
Last year, Taiwan said a small, propeller-driven Chinese plane flew very close to Dongyin, leading the government to say it suspected China was using a civilian plane to test Taiwanese military responses.
China also deployed drones near Taiwan-controlled islands near the Chinese coast last August, when Beijing staged war games near Taiwan that only ended after Taiwanese forces shot down one.
(Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Additional reporting by Yimou Lee; Editing by Hugh Lawson and Christopher Cushing)