Rishi Sunak has said the UK is in “in touch” with allies after a minister claimed Chinese spy balloons may have already flown over the country.
A number of flying objects have been shot down over North America during the past week, with a fourth taken out by fighter jets on Sunday on the orders of US President Joe Biden.
Beijing has admitted to one of the balloons coming from China, but insisted it was a “civilian airship”.
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Speaking to Sky News on Monday, transport minister Richard Holden described China as “a hostile state” and said Britain needed to be “really robust” in its dealings with the regime.
Spy balloons and US tensions with China – join our live Q&A
Asked if spy balloons could already have flown over the UK, he said: “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.”
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Speaking later, the prime minister said: “I want people to know we will do whatever it takes to keep the country safe.
“We have something called the quick reaction alert force, which involves Typhoon planes which are kept on 24/7 readiness to police our airspace, which is incredibly important.
“I can’t obviously comment in detail on national security matters, but we are in constant touch with our allies – and as I said, we will do whatever it takes to keep the country safe.”
Asked if he knew about any balloons having come into UK airspace already, Mr Sunak repeated that he would not comment on national security matters.
But he said the UK was “in touch with our allies and will make sure the country is always protected”.
‘Global threat picture changing for worse’
Defence Secretary Ben Wallace confirmed on Sunday that the government would be carrying out a security review into spy balloons.
He said he would work with the US and other close partners to look at intelligence and assess the threats they pose.
“The UK and her allies will review what these airspace intrusions mean for our security,” he said.
“This development is another sign of how the global threat picture is changing for the worse.”
Labour’s deputy leader Angela Rayner welcomed the review, telling Sky News: “National security has got to be absolutely paramount.
“We have to remain vigilant and ensure that our military services and our security services have the support they need to deliver.”
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