Japan and Taiwan say they will shoot down balloons after suspected intrusion

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The Japanese and Taiwanese governments have announced that they will shoot down foreign balloons or any suspected unidentified object found to be intruding into the respective country’s airspaces. 

The announcement was made after a giant Chinese balloon suspected of spying was shot down by a United States F-22 fighter near the coast of South Carolina on February 4, 2023. 

Reportedly, Taiwanese officials have recalled sightings of different types of balloon-like objects near or over Taiwan during the past two years, while Japanese media reported on a number of  sightings in Japan’s northern region.

On February 16, 2023, the Japanese government eased conditions for the Self-Defense Forces’ (SDF) use of weapons against flying objects. This means that SDF can now shoot down unmanned objects flying in Japanese territorial airspace if necessary,’to protect the lives and property of citizens and to ensure the safety of air traffic.’ 

Japanese media nippon.com has reported that previously, SDF fighter jets were able to use weapons only against manned aircraft and for the purpose of self-defense or emergency escape.

Air SDF Chief of Staff Shunji Izutsu told Japanese media that it is possible for air-to-air missiles to be used in order to destroy balloons. 

Meanwhile, Taiwan’s Defense Ministry announced on February 14, 2023 that it would shoot down any suspected military object coming close to its shores from mainland China.

Assistant deputy chief of general staff for intelligence Major General Huang Wen-chi said that the balloons previously seen over Taiwan were for meteorological purposes only and were not as sophisticated as the one sighted, and subsequently shot down, in the US.

On February 16, 2023, Taiwan found a crashed balloon in Dongyin island, a Taiwanese-controlled part off China’s coast.

Taiwan’s defense minister Chiu Kuo-cheng said that the government is currently investigating the remnants of the balloon and “will not jump to conclusions just by looking at appearances”.

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