The government said Tuesday that three unidentified flying objects spotted over the nation's territory in three years from 2019 are "strongly suspected" to have been Chinese spy balloons.
It is the first time Japan has made such an announcement since the United States shot down a similar Chinese spy balloon earlier this month after its incursion into U.S. airspace, according to a Defense Ministry official.
Tokyo demanded that Beijing confirm facts and prevent a recurrence, the ministry said. The government also told China that Japan would never accept any violation of its territorial skies.
The three flying objects were detected in Kagoshima Prefecture, southwestern Japan, in November 2019 and the northeastern prefectures of Miyagi and Aomori in June 2020 and September 2021, respectively, according to the ministry.
"We will put more effort than ever into information gathering and surveillance activities against balloons, including unmanned ones for foreign espionage," it said in a press release.
The ministry did not elaborate on why it presumed that the flying objects were from China.
The announcement came after the ministry reanalyzed past cases of unidentified flying objects after the U.S. downed a Chinese balloon on Feb. 4.
So far, four flying objects have been shot down by the U.S. military over North American airspace this month.
Japanese Defense Minister Yasukazu Hamada told a press conference earlier Tuesday that the Self-Defense Forces will be allowed to use weapons, including air-to-air missiles, to deal with airspace incursions.