High-ranking diplomats from Japan and South Korea said Monday that the two countries support the U.S. response to a suspected Chinese spy balloon as no country is allowed to infringe on another's territorial sovereignty.
Following a meeting with U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman in Washington, Japanese Vice Foreign Minister Takeo Mori and their South Korean counterpart Cho Hyun Dong voiced the shared position of Tokyo and Seoul, amid rising tensions between Washington and Beijing since the balloon was shot down by the U.S. military in early February.
"I explained at the meeting today that Japan supports this position of the U.S.," Mori said in a joint press conference with the two senior diplomats. "We will keep in touch and we look forward to receiving more information."
The South Korean first vice foreign minister said, "We, as an ally of the United States, trust what the United States officially stated," adding that Seoul expects there will be a chance for a high-level meeting with China on the balloon issue.
Sherman, who hosted the trilateral meeting, the first of its kind since last October, repeated Washington's position that it is "absolutely confident" the balloon was a "surveillance apparatus" from China.
As White House national security spokesman John Kirby also did Monday, Sherman categorically denied China's accusation that U.S. high-altitude balloons have illegally entered Chinese airspace more than 10 times since last year.
"Let me add a fact which is very important...there are no U.S. government balloons over the People's Republic of China -- none, zero, period," Sherman said, referring to China by its official name.
Since the downing of the giant balloon off the coast of South Carolina on Feb. 4 after it flew near "sensitive sites" in Montana, the U.S. military for the third day in a row destroyed an unidentified flying object on Sunday, possibly unprecedented in peacetime.
As compared to the balloon, U.S. officials have said the three objects, which were taken down over Alaska, Canada's Yukon territory and Lake Huron due to a potential hazard to civil aviation, were much smaller with similar characteristics and were all moving at a lower altitude.
Kirby told a press conference the U.S. government does not yet know where the last three objects came from, but of the balloon, equipped with solar panels and antennas, he said, "We were able to determine that China has a high-altitude balloon program for intelligence that's connected to the People's Liberation Army."
Kirby added that such balloons possess "limited" capabilities but the program could become "more valuable" for China in the future as technology improves.
The balloon incident led to U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken putting off a scheduled visit to Beijing and continuing tit-for-tat verbal exchanges between the two countries.
China has maintained the balloon was being used for weather research and that it was blown off course, accusing the United States of overreacting.
Besides the incident, Sherman said she discussed with the diplomats representing her nation's key Asian allies issues including North Korea, Russia's ongoing war against Ukraine and the shared vision of a free and open Indo-Pacific.
She said at the press conference that the United States will align with Japan and South Korea, as well as other partners around the world to "push back on the PRC behavior that challenges the rules-based regional and international order."
Not only will they counter China's destabilizing activities in the South and East China seas, she said, the countries will "keep working for maintaining peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait."