As an election in democratic Taiwan looms, Chinese balloons have appeared around the island at various times of the day — in what its military says is a new form of "gray zone" harassment.

China already flexes its military prowess against self-ruled Taiwan daily, sending fighter jets, reconnaissance drones and naval ships around the island.

But since December, Taiwan's Defense Ministry has said that mysterious balloons were crossing the narrow Taiwan Strait separating China from the island, saying their purpose was gray-zone harassment.