New images show Chinese spy balloons over Asia
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BBC Panorama has discovered new evidence of China’s spy balloon program, including flights over Japan and Taiwan.

The Japanese government has confirmed balloons have flown over its territory, and it is prepared to shoot them down in the future.

BBC’s evidence has not been directly addressed by China.

As a result of an alleged Chinese spy balloon being shot down off the coast of the US earlier this year, US-China relations were thrown into turmoil.

According to China, the balloon seen over north-western US in late January was a civilian airship used for scientific research like meteorology.

“This was not just a one-time effort, but a continuing effort that lasted at least five years,” John Culver, a former East Asia analyst for the CIA, told Panorama. Some Chinese balloons have apparently circumnavigated the globe and were specifically designed for long-range missions.

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BBC researchers found multiple images of balloons crossing East Asia through satellite data collected by Synthetaic, an artificial intelligence company.

One balloon was found crossing northern Japan by the company’s founder, Corey Jaskolski, in early September 2021. It is the first time these images have been published.

According to Mr. Jaskolski, the evidence also points to the balloon having been launched from deep inside China, south of Mongolia. We have not been able to confirm this with the BBC.

Japan is a close ally of the US and more American forces are stationed there than in any other foreign country.

Satellite image of suspected spy balloon over Japan

As Yuko Murakami, from the Japanese ministry of defence, told the BBC, the government is “taking all precautions to monitor the situation on a daily basis” and is willing to shoot down balloons to protect lives and property.

China’s balloons are believed to be capable of gathering signals intelligence, according to the US State Department. A missile it discovered over the US had “multiple antennas, likely able to collect and geolocate communications”.

As part of its investigation, the Panorama team first searched social media and press reports across the region for sightings of UFOs.

In late September 2021, the Taiwanese weather service took two photographs showing a balloon over Taipei’s capital.

Using satellite imagery, Mr Jaskolski then cross-referenced them. He says they discovered the balloon 90 seconds after it went up.