Former Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera has stated that Japan and Taiwan cannot cooperate directly due to the lack of formal diplomatic ties, but they can coordinate with the United States to share intelligence concerning recent sightings of suspected Chinese spy balloons around the world. Onodera, a senior lawmaker of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, served two stints as Japan’s defense minister from 2012 to 2014 and again from 2017 to 2018.
Japan’s defense ministry announced on Feb. 14 that it suspected Chinese surveillance balloons had entered Japan’s airspace at least three times between 2019 to 2021, and requested verification from the Chinese regime. Onodera noted that according to the country’s current regulations, the Japanese military can only shoot down foreign devices in self-defense or emergency situations. He suggested that authorities could consider loosening restrictions on the Japanese military’s ability to employ weapons against any incursions by foreign balloons as they could endanger public safety.
Defense Minister Yasukazu Hamada declared on Tuesday that Japan’s military can take necessary measures to bring down foreign balloons violating Japan’s airspace in order to protect its citizens. He stated that the military would be allowed to use weapons, including air-to-air missiles, against foreign balloons in accordance with the country’s military law.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said that the United States was sharing intelligence with dozens of nations after it discovered that China’s spy balloon program had targeted at least 40 nations. Beijing previously condemned the U.S. move to shoot down its balloon as “a clear overreaction.” It claimed the balloon was a civilian airship that had been blown off-course and posed no threat to national security. However, Washington said it was likely a sophisticated high-altitude spying vehicle conducting surveillance over sensitive U.S. military sights, including nuclear bases in Montana.
Taiwan’s military reported on Thursday that it had found the remains of a probable crashed weather balloon likely from China on a remote and strategically located island near the Chinese coast. Taiwan’s army said its forces on Dongyin island, part of the Taiwan-controlled Matsu archipelago off the coast of China’s Fuzhou, observed an unknown object falling from the sky, then found the remnants of a balloon on a shooting range. Defense Minister Chiu Kuo-cheng said the ministry has dispatched a team to investigate the crashed balloon. Defense ministry spokesperson Sun Li-fang told Bloomberg on Feb. 13 that Taiwan will adopt appropriate measures against new threats, including shooting threats down, based on the level of concern. Last year, Taiwan said a small, propeller-driven Chinese aircraft flew very close to Dongyin in what the government said they suspected was China deploying a civilian aircraft to test the responses of the Taiwanese military. The Chinese regime also deployed drones close to Taiwan-controlled islands near the Chinese coast last August when Beijing staged war games near Taiwan, which only ended after Taiwanese forces shot one down.