UK to launch urgent security review as China spy balloons could have already crossed Britain: 'Global threats getting worse'

Ben Wallace will work with US allies to analyse intelligence and dangers of Chinese spy balloons
Ben Wallace will work with US allies to analyse intelligence and dangers of Chinese spy balloons
Brian Lawless
Georgina Cutler

By Georgina Cutler

Published: 13/02/2023

- 11:01

The Defence Secretary will work with allies to assess the dangers posed by the balloons

Britain has launched a security review amid the invasion of Chinese sky balloons into Western airspace, the Defence Secretary has said.

Ben Wallace is set to liaise with allies including the US to analyse intelligence and dangers of the balloons.

The security review will be used to help the UK decide whether any changes need to be made to the surveillance of British airspace.

It comes as MPs warn that balloons may have already crossed the UK – a possibility the defence minister has not ruled out.

The US has shot down four suspected spy balloons in just over a week as fears grow over the threat from China.

FILE PHOTO: The suspected Chinese spy balloon drifts to the ocean after being shot down off the coast in Surfside Beach, South Carolina, U.S. February 4, 2023.  REUTERS/Randall Hill/File Photo
A spy balloon from China shot down by the US military near North Carolina

Wallace said: “The UK and her allies will review what these airspace intrusions mean for our security. This development is another sign of how the global threat picture is changing for the worse.”

Last week, the White House claimed that balloons from China had been seen over five continents but did not confirm where.

The first balloon was shot down last Saturday after being spotted over military installations in North Carolina.

Another was seen over Alaska and shot down on Friday before a third was destroyed on Saturday over the Canadian province of Yukon.

The US military said it had taken down another unidentified object flying over Lake Huron on Sunday.

Wallace previously said if a balloon was seen over UK territory, he would shoot it down.

Alicia Kearns, who chairs the Commons foreign affairs select committee, said: “British airspace is protected by an exceptional quick reaction force, which has proved itself very capable against unknown and hostile aircraft.

“The US will share with us and Five Eyes allies its conclusions on the capabilities of the Chinese balloons, and at that point an internal review of our ability to identify, track, disrupt and destroy these balloons will be undertaken.”

FILE PHOTO: Sailors assigned to Explosive Ordnance Disposal Group 2 recover a suspected Chinese high-altitude surveillance balloon that was downed by the United States over the weekend over U.S. territorial waters off the coast of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, U.S., February 5, 2023. U.S. Fleet Forces/U.S. Navy photo/Handout via REUTERS//File Photo
The US Navy retrieved the Chinese balloon off the coast of Myrtle Beach

The review comes as Prime Minister Rishi Sunak faces mounting pressure to take a tougher stance on China.

Former Tory leader, Sir Iain Duncan Smith urged the government to stop “kowtowing” to Beijing.

Duncan Smith has condemned the Foreign Office for inviting the governor of Xinjiang province for a meeting despite accusations of human rights abuses against Uiygurs.

He urged the government to “come clean” over whether spy balloons have been spotted over the UK, adding: “China looks at us and sees we are weak.

"It is ludicrous for Rishi Sunak to say when he is standing for the leadership that he wants to characterise China as a strategic threat, but then say it is just a strategic challenge.”

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