- Japan’s defence minister says it would have the legal right to destroy any balloon that enters its domestic airspace.
- Tokyo is investigating if balloons like the Chinese one shot down over the US have been used to probe Japan’s defences.
Japan is investigating reported sightings of balloons over its territory in recent years, due to growing concerns that China is deploying the relatively unsophisticated technology to obtain intelligence about Japan’s defences.
Defence Minister Yasukazu Hamada said on Tuesday under existing laws, Japan would have the legal right to destroy any balloon that intrudes into its domestic airspace.
Tokyo has been closely watching Washington’s response to a Chinese surveillance balloon that was tracked for about a week as it crossed North America — coming very close to sensitive American military facilities — before it was shot down by a fighter off the east coast on Saturday.
Japan is concerned because some weather models indicated it crossed into its territory before traversing the Pacific Ocean, and that other balloons may have been used to probe Japan’s defences in the past or may be used for the same reason in the future.
Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihio Isozaki said in a press conference on Monday that Tokyo had opened a probe over past balloon sightings over Japan, with similar aircraft reported in a number of northern locations, including the city of Sendai in June 2020. There were similar sightings over Aomori Prefecture in September 2021.
Isozaki declined to comment on the reaction of the Self-Defence Forces to the sightings for security reasons, but indicated Japan would from now on respond more forcefully.
“Intrusions into Japan’s territorial airspace