New evidence of China’s spy balloon program is presented by the BBC, according to which satellites have recorded several images of balloons crossing East Asia, including over Japan and Taiwan.

Japan has confirmed that balloons have flown over its territory and said it is ready to shoot them down in the future.

US-China relations were strained earlier this year when an alleged Chinese spy balloon was shot down off the US coast.

China has claimed that the balloon seen over the northwestern US in late January was a civilian aircraft, used for scientific research such as meteorology – and that it was an accidental and isolated event.

John Culver – a former CIA analyst for East Asia – told the BBC it was “not just a one-off but an ongoing effort going back at least five years”. He said the Chinese balloons were “specially designed for these long-range missions” and some had “apparently circled the planet”.

Working with Synthetaic, an artificial intelligence company that analyzes vast amounts of data recorded by satellites, the BBC found several images of balloons crossing East Asia. The company’s founder, Corey Jaskolski, found evidence of a balloon crossing over northern Japan in early September 2021. These are new images that have not been published before.

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

Yuko Murakami, from Japan’s defense ministry, told the BBC the government was “taking all precautions to monitor the situation on a daily basis” and would even be willing to shoot down balloons to protect “lives and property of people on Japanese soil’.

The US State Department, quoted in the BBC broadcast, believes the Chinese balloons are equipped to collect signals intelligence and that the aircraft it discovered over the US had “multiple antennae, likely capable of collecting and locating geographic communications”.