The Japanese Defense Ministry said that it "strongly suspects" Chinese spy balloons have entered their country at least three times since 2019, Reuters reported Tuesday.
The devices were detected in 2019, 2020, and 2021, the ministry said in a statement, adding that Japanese officials had contacted China to verify the facts of the situation and ensure it didn't happen again. The ministry also said that it would not accept any territorial violations from Chinese balloons.
"We will put more effort than ever into information gathering and surveillance activities against balloons, including unmanned ones for foreign espionage," Japan's Defense Ministry said in a statement, according to a translation provided by Nikkei Asia . It is unclear what made Japanese officials believe these balloons came from China.
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The accusation from Japan comes after a the U.S. shot down a Chinese spy balloon off the coast of South Carolina on Feb. 4. At least three additional devices have been shot down across the U.S. and Canada since then, though officials have not confirmed whether these were sent by China.
Following those incidents, diplomats from Japan and South Korea said that both countries supported the American response to the devices, in particular the shooting down of the first Chinese balloon.
Japanese Vice Foreign Minister Takeo Mori said after a meeting with American officials that he "supports the position of the U.S.," per The Japan Times, adding that Japan "will keep in touch and we look forward to receiving more information."
This sentiment was echoed by Mori's South Korean counterpart, First Vice Foreign Minister Cho Hyun-dong. "We, as an ally of the United States, trust what the United States officially stated," he said, adding that Seoul wanted to have a meeting with China about the recent occurrence of balloons.
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