Chinese spy balloons have reportedly flown over Japan in recent years

Over Japan, “specific balloon-shaped flying objects” previously identified – notably in November 2019, June 2020 and September 2021 – would ultimately be Chinese spy balloons, according to “further analysis” of the Japanese Defense Ministry, Tokyo said in a statement late Tuesday. The Ministry of Defense has “strongly requested the Chinese government to confirm the facts” of these incidents and “that such a situation does not happen again in the future”.

“Violations of airspace by foreign unmanned reconnaissance balloons and other means are totally unacceptable,” the Ministry of Defense hammered in its statement. Tokyo is now planning to change its procedures vis-à-vis flying objects illegally in its airspace, in order to be able to shoot them down more easily, Japanese media reported on Wednesday.

‘A huge potential flaw in Japan’s defence’

Currently, weapons can only be used against these objects when they present a direct and immediate threat, according to the Kyodo news agency. “I think this case raises concerns about a huge potential flaw in Japan’s defense,” Itsunori Onodera, the main ruling party’s security official and former defense minister, said on Wednesday.

Japan said last week that it was reviewing a series of incidents involving unidentified flying objects in light of the Chinese balloon shot down in early February by the United States after crossing American territory, and which was equipped with surveillance equipment according to Washington.

Following this incident, the US military adjusted its radar settings to detect smaller, slower-moving objects, and discovered three other unidentified craft that President Joe Biden ordered shot down: one over Alaska, another over Canada, and the third over Lake Huron, Michigan.

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However, there is “no indication” for the moment that these three devices were also of Chinese origin or had spy functions, a White House spokesman said on Tuesday.

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