Wallace announces security review, as minister suggests ‘it’s possible’ China has sent ‘spy balloons’ to the UK

Defence secretary Ben Wallace has announced a security review after a series of objects in Western airspace were shot down by the US military, including a suspected Chinese spy balloon.

The review will assess the dangers posed by suspicious flying objects and will work with the US and other partners to analyse intelligence. The review will be used to help decide whether any changes need to be made to the surveillance of British airspace.

Mr Wallace has previously said that if such a balloon was sighted over the UK, he would shoot it down.

It comes as US fighter jets downed an “unidentified object” over Lake Huron on Sunday — the fourth object to enter US or Canadian airspace in a week.

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”.

Speaking to Sky News this morning, transport minister Richard Holden said it “possible” that China has sent spy balloons over the UK.

Asked if spy balloons like those thought to have been downed in the US last week, could have been used over the UK, Mr Holden replied in the affirmative.

He said: “I mean, it’s possible. It’s also possible that — and I would think likely — that there will be people from the Chinese government trying to act as a hostile state. We saw it with Russia here in the UK with the Salisbury poisonings and other actions that they’ve taken.

“I think we’ve got to be realistic about the threat that these countries pose to the UK. They’re not interested in our democratic values, they’re not interested in standing up for human rights around the world”.

The first suspected Chinese spy balloon was downed on February 4 by the US military, after the object had traversed sensitive military sites across North America.

On February 10, the US military then shot down an unknown “car-sized” object flying in US airspace off the coast of Alaska.

On Sunday, a further unidentified object was shot down with a missile by US fighter jets over Lake Huron.

Alicia Kearns, chairman of the Commons foreign affairs select committee told The Telegraph: “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”.

Former Conservative leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith has urged the British government to stop “kowtowing” to Beijing. Sir Iain will be taking part in a protest outside the foreign office today after the government department invited the governor of Xinjiang province for a meeting despite accusations of human rights abuses against Uiygurs.

He told The Telegraph: “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”.

The comments will put further pressure on prime minister Rishi Sunak to take a harder line on China. On Friday, former PM Liz Truss is set to warn of the threat from Beijing in her first public speech since quitting Downing Street.