On Tuesday, a large spherical object of unknown origin washed up on Enshu Beach in Hamamatsu City, Japan. The object, described as an “iron ball” with a diameter of 1.5 meters, was reportedly rusty and had a latching point that would allow it to be hooked to something. Police cordoned off the area in a 200-meter radius around the object and called in explosive experts to inspect it for explosives. After using X-ray technology to examine the object, authorities determined that it did not pose an explosive threat and the restrictive access was lifted. The origin of the iron ball remains unknown.
Concerns over suspicious objects have intensified after the United States shot down a suspected Chinese spy balloon on Feb. 4. Since then, three more unidentified airborne objects were shot down over the Alaskan northern coast on Feb. 10, over Canada’s Yukon on Feb. 11, and over Lake Huron on Feb. 12. U.S. authorities said the objects were downed because they posed a threat to civil aviation. President Joe Biden said the balloons were likely “tied to private companies, recreation or research institutions.”
Japan’s Defense Ministry also said on Feb. 14 that it “strongly” suspected Chinese surveillance balloons had entered Japanese airspace at least three times between 2019 and 2021. Japan’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party last week approved a proposal to ease limitations on the military use of weapons against unmanned aircraft that violate Japanese airspace. Currently, SDF law allows “necessary measures” to be taken against foreign aircraft that invade Japan’s airspace, but the use of weapons is only allowed in cases of legitimate self-defense or an act of necessity. The proposed policy would permit the use of weapons against drones and balloons that pose a hazard to civil air traffic, even if doing so does not constitute legitimate self-defense. Defense Minister Yasukazu Hamada said the military would be allowed to use weapons, including air-to-air missiles, against foreign balloons that violated Japan’s airspace in accordance with the SDF law.