Photo/Illutration A white object believed to be a balloon was observed over Sendai in June 2020. (Provided by Sendai Astronomical Observatory)

Japanese lawmakers are revisiting reports of flying objects spotted in the skies over Japan about three years ago that appear to be similar to the Chinese balloon shot down by a U.S. fighter jet. 

Washington claims the balloon it brought down over the Atlantic Ocean on Feb. 4 was spying on sensitive military sites after it had drifted over a large part of the continental United States.

Mysterious balloon-like objects were seen over the city of Sendai in June 2020 and in other areas of the nation in 2021.

“If a foreign balloon intrudes into our airspace without permission, it is considered to be violating our airspace,” Defense Minister Yasukazu Hamada said at a news conference after a Cabinet meeting on Feb. 7.

He added shooting it down is an option to protect the lives and property of the people.

However, Hamada said on Feb. 6 that the objects from 2020 and 2021 had not violated Japan’s airspace.

“There have been no cases in which airspace incursions by balloons have been confirmed and announced,” he said.

Atsushi Suzuki of the opposition Democratic Party for the People asked Hamada at a Lower House Budget Committee meeting how the ministry monitored and analyzed the flying objects.

“I cannot answer about each piece of information due to the nature of the matter," Hamada replied. "We are continuing to analyze the details.”

He provided no evidence that the mysterious objects had not violated Japan’s airspace, however.

“It’s already been three years since then,” Suzuki said. “They’ve long since fallen.

“If the ministry doesn’t take an interest in what is flying over Japan and (swiftly) analyze each object, then talk of raising defense spending should clearly be put on the back burner,” he added.

A white spherical flying object was spotted over Sendai on June 17, 2020, becoming a hot topic on social media, with users wondering if it was a UFO.

Yoshihide Suga, then chief Cabinet secretary, was asked about the possibility that another country dispatched it with hostile intent at a news conference.

“We have not confirmed any such facts,” Suga said.

(This article was compiled from reports by Ryutaro Abe, Nobuhiko Tajima and Kazuki Uechi.)