Japan says working with US after alleged Chinese balloon shot down

Japan says working with US after alleged Chinese balloon shot down

TOKYO: Japan said on Thursday it was coordinating with Washington as it looked at unidentified aerial objects spotted over the country in past years after the US forces shot down an alleged Chinese surveillance balloon.

Chief Government spokesman Hirokazu Matsuno told reporters on Thursday that they were communicating with the United States but they wouldn't comment on diplomatic exchanges.

We are analysing objects seen above Japan in June 2020 and September 2021, including any links to the case in the United States. A mysterious balloon-like object was spotted over northern Japan in June 2020, with locals posting pictures on social media.

Authorities said they were baffled by the object, which appeared to be composed of a balloon attached to crossed sticks with propellers, in close-up images by residents and media.

Japan's meteorological agency said at the time that the balloon looked like a weather-monitoring device but did not belong to them.

The government batted away suggestions that it might belong to a foreign government, but the recent furore over an alleged Chinese surveillance balloon shot down after passing over the US has prompted a reevaluation.

Matsuno also revealed that the government has found similar balloons whose affiliation is unknown, including in January 2022, over the ocean west of Kyushu, southwestern Japan.

He said that we continue to make the utmost efforts to collect and analyse information in cooperation with our ally.

Japan's defence ministry said earlier this week it conducted 24 hour, 365 day surveillance of the airspace over Japan, but it didn't say whether balloons like the one shot down by US forces over Japan had been observed.

We make appropriate announcements when we confirm a case of airspace invasion. The ministry said in response to a question by AFP, we have never made an announcement on any airspace violation by balloons.