China’s spy balloon scandal is back in the news with reports now claiming such balloons have previously been spotted over Asia as well. A BBC report has revealed that Japan and Taiwan have also been victims of the Chinese spy balloon programme, with Tokyo even confirming that such balloons have flown over its territory in the past and it plans to shoot them down in the future.
This revelation comes months after a Chinese spy balloon was spotted flying over the US, which was later shot down off the country’s coast. China condemned the American move, claiming that it was a civilian airship meant for research and meteorology.
Why is China targeting Japan with its spy balloons?
Research by BBC reveals that China flew one of its balloons over Japan in September 2021. Corey Jaskolski, the founder of artificial intelligence company Synthetaic, was quoted by BBC as saying that the balloon was highly likely launched from deep inside China, possibly south of Mongolia.
This is concerning because Japan is a major security ally of the US, and more American military personnel are stationed there than in any other country. As reported by BBC, Japan will now take all precautions to keep the Chinese balloon threat at bay.
According to an official from the Japanese defence ministry, the government is taking all precautions to monitor the situation on a daily basis and would even be willing to shoot down balloons to protect the “lives and property of people in the territory of Japan”.
Balloons spotted over Taiwan as well
The joint research undertaken by BBC and Synthetaic also revealed that a similar spy balloon had flown over Taiwan in the same month—September 2021.
Two photographs taken by Taiwan’s weather service showed a balloon-like figure flying over Taiwan’s capital city of Taipei. Further research showed that a spy balloon was flying off the coast of Taiwan that month.
China’s global surveillance operation
The presence of Chinese police stations on foreign soil, and now the reports of Chinese spy balloons in the Americas and Asia have triggered concerns about China’s covert global surveillance programme. China has been accused of using these balloons to gather intelligence data from key military posts and nuclear sites in enemy nations.
For instance, the balloon that was downed by US Air Force earlier this year was just 130 km away from a nuclear air force base in the state of Montana at one point.