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Japan Says It Strongly Presumes China Sent Three Spy Balloons Into Its Airspace

Spy Balloon
A balloon spotted in Sendai, Japan, on June 17, 2020.
A balloon spotted in Sendai, Japan, on June 17, 2020. (Image credit: Sendai Astronomical Observatory)

Three mysterious balloon-shaped flying objects were spotted inside the Japanese airspace in 2019, 2020 and 2021.

“As a result of further analysis of specific balloon-shaped flying objects that have been confirmed in Japan’s airspace in the past, including those in November 2019, June 2020 and September 2021, we have come to the conclusion that it is strongly presumed to be an unmanned reconnaissance balloon flown by China.” This is the first part of an official release published on Japan’s MOD website on Feb. 14, 2023 that adds: In response to this, we will request the Chinese government to confirm the facts regarding this matter through diplomatic channels and strongly request that such a situation not occur in the future.”

“If a balloon enters Japan’s airspace without permission, it constitutes an infringement of Japan’s airspace. We will strive to collect and monitor.”

Interestingly, the outcome of the Japanese analysis has been made public as the sightings of balloon-shaped objects have multiplied across the world, leading to a series of four shootdowns in the U.S. and an alert scramble that did not turn into a visual contact over Romania.

The images shared by the Japanese MOD show balloons resembling the high altitude balloon, suspected to carry SIGINT equipment, that was eventually shot down on February 4, 2023, by an F-22 Raptor,. Three additional unidentified objects, later appearing to have been much smaller commercial or research balloons, were also spotted and shot down. The U.S. military hasn’t recovered the wreckage of the latter three ones, but the U.S. Department of Defense has released photos showing the transport of the recovered wreckage of the first, large, Chinese balloon. According to the US military, major sensors and parts of electronic equipment were also recovered.

The Chinese balloon carried “multiple antennas” capable of collecting signals intelligence, a senior State Department official said, and the balloon maker has proven ties to the Chinese military, according to a CNBC report by Abigail Williams.

“The official said that the U.S. is confident that the manufacturer of the balloon “has a direct relationship with China’s military and is an approved vendor of the [People’s Liberation Army], according to information published in an official procurement portal for the PLA.”

About David Cenciotti
David Cenciotti is a journalist based in Rome, Italy. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviationist”, one of the world’s most famous and read military aviation blogs. Since 1996, he has written for major worldwide magazines, including Air Forces Monthly, Combat Aircraft, and many others, covering aviation, defense, war, industry, intelligence, crime and cyberwar. He has reported from the U.S., Europe, Australia and Syria, and flown several combat planes with different air forces. He is a former 2nd Lt. of the Italian Air Force, a private pilot and a graduate in Computer Engineering. He has written five books and contributed to many more ones.

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