Japan proposes review of regulations to allow shooting down spy balloons

(Update 1: adds ministry’s proposal, details, changes lede, slug)

Tokyo, Feb 15 (EFE).- Japan’s defense ministry proposed Wednesday a review of regulations to allow the use of weapons to shoot down unidentified flying objects entering the country’s airspace after announcing incursions by several alleged Chinese spy balloons in recent years.

The ministry made the proposal at a meeting of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) on Wednesday, public broadcaster NHK reported.

The move to review the country’s military policy comes a day after the ministry confirmed that it detected three unidentified objects flying over its territory between 2019 and 2021, which it suspects were Chinese spy balloons similar to the one shot down by the United States early February.

The current regulations of the Self-Defense Forces – the country’s army – restrict the use of weapons to self defense and emergency evacuations.

The review, which must now be discussed by the ruling party, is aimed at allowing the use of weapons to shoot down balloons or other flying objects that enter Japanese airspace without permission – thereby violating international law – and may be considered a threat to national security.

A defense ministry spokesperson declined to comment to EFE on the matter and said that the ministry had not made any official announcement in this regard.

In a brief statement on Tuesday, the ministry said that “as a result of further analysis of balloon-shaped flying objects that have been confirmed in Japan’s airspace in the past…we have come to the conclusion that they are strongly suspected to be unmanned surveillance balloons flown by China.”

It’s the first time Japan has spoken out on the matter since the US shot down what it called a Chinese spy balloon in its airspace earlier this month.

Japan has asked China through diplomatic channels to confirm the facts related to the matter and has urged that such incidents never occur again as they are an unacceptable violation of national airspace, top government spokesperson Hirokazu Matsuno said at a press conference on Wednesday.

The Japanese government will continue to analyze information and monitor foreign aircraft more closely while cooperating closely with allied countries, he added. EFE


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