New Images Show Suspected Chinese Spy Balloons Flying Over US Allies

(Photo by U.S. Department of Defense via Getty Images)

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Micaela Burrow Investigative Reporter, Defense
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New imagery analysis shows multiple instances of suspected Chinese surveillance balloons floating over countries in East Asia, possibly confirming previous reports of balloons sighted above Japan and Taiwan, the BBC reported.

After the U.S. military revealed it had tracked a maneuverable Chinese spy balloon targeting sensitive U.S. sites, the BBC worked with artificial intelligence company Synthetaic to cross-reference global media reports of strange aerial objects with satellite imagery collected at the time of sighting. Corey Jaskolski, Synthetaic’s founder, said analysts found images of a balloon crossing through northern Japan in 2021 after sifting through previously unpublished satellite imagery, according to the BBC.

Evidence suggests the balloon was launched from deep inside mainland China, although the BBC was not able to confirm the launch site. (RELATED: China Has Completed ‘Dozens’ Of Missions In Massive Spy Balloon Campaign: REPORT)

Japan is “taking all precautions to monitor the situation on a daily basis” and is prepared to shoot down any surveillance balloons if necessary to preserve “lives and property of people in the territory of Japan,” Ministry of Defense spokesperson Yuko Murakami told the outlet.

Researchers also found photographs taken by Taiwan’s weather service appearing to show balloons above Taipei in September 2021.

Checking the satellite imagery, Jaskolski told the BBC, “Within 90 seconds, we found the balloon off the coast of Taiwan.”

Taiwan previously acknowledged detecting Chinese-origin weather balloons in its airspace but denied to the BBC that the object in the 2021 photo was intended for surveillance purposes.

In February 2022, around the same time the U.S.-bound balloon neared Hawaii, Taiwan’s Ministry of National Defense addressed several Chinese balloons that had overflown the independent island, Taipei Times reported. However, Taiwanese authorities assessed the balloons likely served meteorological purposes and did not pose a military threat.

“Just based on the diameter of the balloon and the fact that the operating altitudes look similar … that looks an awful lot like the balloon that flew over the United States, over Japan,” Jaskolski told the BBC.

Japan hosts the largest number of U.S troops abroad, while the Pentagon considers both Japan and Taiwan strategic allies in the competition against China.

A mysterious balloon-like object was spotted over Japan in 2020, with photos appearing to depict a large, spherical, white airship dangling x-shaped equipment, according to Reuters.

To identify possible balloons in thousands of images produced by the satellite imagery company Planet Labs, Jaskolski fed the Synthetaic AI machine an example of what a spy balloon might look like from outer space along with general coordinates of where the media reports suggested a sighting occurred, according to the outlet. Using wind models and working backwards, Jaskolski was able to trace potential routes and origin points for the balloons.

Bejing said the balloon shot down earlier in 2023 off America’s east coast was a civilian airship that had veered off course.

However, evidence suggests the balloons are “specially designed for these long-range missions” and some “apparently circumnavigated the globe,” John Culver, a former CIA East Asia analyst, told the BBC.

The Chinese foreign ministry did not immediately respond to the Daily Caller News Foundation’s request for comment.

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