Taiwan's defence ministry accused China on Saturday (6 January) of endangering aviation safety and engaging in psychological warfare by deploying numerous balloons near or over the island, just days before crucial elections as reported by The Economic Times.
Concerns about China using balloons for potential spying gained global attention in last February, when the United States claimed to have shot down a Chinese surveillance balloon.
Taiwan, anticipating heightened Chinese military and political activities ahead of the 13 January elections, alleges that China is applying military and economic pressure to influence the electoral process.
The defence ministry in Taiwan raised alarms about the balloons posing a significant threat to international aviation safety due to their flight paths, characterising them as part of China's "grey zone" tactics to conduct cognitive warfare and impact the morale of the Taiwanese people.
The recent statement used strong language, condemning China's actions as a disregard for aviation safety and the well-being of passengers on cross-Taiwan Strait and international flights.
China, which considers Taiwan its own territory, rejected these accusations, referring to Taiwan's ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) as "hyping up the threat" to incite confrontation in the run-up to the elections.
The Taiwanese defense ministry reported additional instances of Chinese balloons within the last 24 hours, heightening tensions between the two sides.
Taiwan's Vice President and DPP's presidential candidate, Lai Ching-te, urged voters to uphold democracy and freedom, stating that China was using warships, warplanes, and misinformation to divide Taiwan.
The United States, a key supporter of Taiwan, has expressed concerns over rising tensions in the region.
White House national security spokesman John Kirby, while addressing the issue of balloons, emphasised the US commitment to supporting Taiwan's democratic institutions and the need for free, fair, open, and transparent elections.
Bhuvan Krishna is Staff Writer at Swarajya.
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