Ben Wallace grilled on US’ national security document
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The UK will reportedly launch a security review amid the “airspace intrusions” of the presumed Chinese spy balloons into Western airspace, said Defence Secretary Ben Wallace. Mr Wallace is likely to coordinate with the US and other close allies to analyse intelligence and understand the dangers posed by the balloons.
The review by the UK Defence department will help in deciding whether any changes are required to be made to the surveillance of British airspace.
The Telegraph reported that the MPs have warned that balloons may have already crossed over the UK, a possibility the Ministry of Defence has refused to rule out.
On Sunday night, Mr 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.”
The move comes amid increasing fears over the threat from China after the US shot down a balloon floating over military installations in North Carolina. More have since been spotted.
Following the initial sighting, a “high altitude object” was shot down over Alaska on Friday, followed by another object over the Canadian province of Yukon on Saturday.
On Sunday, the US military said it had downed another unidentified object flying over Lake Huron, which divides the US state of Michigan and the Canadian province of Ontario.
However, reports claimed that a senior US official told ABC News that the three objects shot during the weekend were not spy balloons.
Mr Wallace has previously said that if one of the balloons was sighted over the UK, 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.”
Luis Martinez, a reporter with the publications tweeted: “A senior US official tells @abc there is no sense that the three objects shot down this weekend are anything but meteorological balloons or some sort of weather balloon, and not spy balloons.”
Tobias Ellwood, the chairman of the Commons defence select committee, said that if Parliament was sitting he would be raising a question on whether the balloons had been seen above the UK.
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He said: “I want to know – if this is what China is doing, what is our response? This is intrusion and intelligence-gathering. There are some big questions to be asked across NATO. I would encourage the Government to provide assurances that our skies are patrolled and that there is no infiltration at high altitude.”
Mr Ellwood also called on Jeremy Hunt, the Chancellor, to increase defence spending in next month’s Budget amid claims Mr Wallace is asking for at least £10billion more.
He said: “The defence committee warned a year ago that our armed forces were now too small to meet our security obligations, given the growing threats on the horizon.
“We’ve consistently called for an increase in defence spending but instead we’ve witnessed scything cuts to our sea, land and air assets.
“When the US military says we no longer have a tier one army and Germany raises concerns about us meeting our Nato obligations, it’s time to stop being in denial. As the world becomes more dangerous we need to spend more on defence.”
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