Taiwan says crashed balloon was used for weather monitoring

FILE PHOTO: Soldiers march past a sign of the Taiwan flag on Dongyin island

TAIPEI (Reuters) - A balloon that came down on a remote Taiwanese-held islet close to China's coast was used for weather monitoring and had no audio-visual recording equipment on board, Taiwan's Defence Ministry said on Saturday after analysing the remains.

Taiwan, which China claims as its own territory, 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 close to offshore islets.

Taiwan said on Thursday that its forces on Dongyin island, part of the Taiwan-controlled Matsu archipelago off the coast of the Chinese city of Fuzhou, had found the remains of a balloon after observing an object falling from the sky. They said it was most likely Chinese.

The Defence Ministry said that after analysing and comparing the remains, it had determined that the balloon was carrying meteorological recording instruments "without photographic or recording audio-visual or storage-related devices".

It was equipped with an antenna, temperature and humidity sensing equipment, a data transmitter board and lithium battery, a ministry statement said.

According to statistics it has assembled, the ministry said "floating balloons" around the Taiwan Strait in recent years have mostly been seen between December and February, in line with the prevailing wind direction.

The ministry said on Tuesday it had not spotted any surveillance balloons from China in its vicinity, as a dispute between China and the United States over spy balloons triggers worries about rising military tensions.

Dongyin sits in a strategic position at the top of the Taiwan Strait and the island is well defended.

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

(Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Helen Popper)