A Chinese man was rescued by the Japanese coast guard after he crash-landed a hot air balloon near disputed islands in the East China Sea known as Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China on Wednesday (January 1).
According to the South China Morning Post, the man, identified as 35-year-old-chef and licensed balloon pilot Xu Shuaijun, wanted to land on one of the disputed islands. Xu launched the hot air balloon from Fuqing City in China’s Fujian Province at 7 a.m. before crashing into the sea some 22 km to the south of the disputed islands after nearly seven and a half hours of flying.
Before his balloon crash-landed, Xu sent a radio distress signal to the Taiwanese rescue authority, which contacted the Japanese coast guard. Japanese authorities said Xu was in Japanese territorial waters, but it was decided not to pursue charges as they could not determine the exact place he had landed. Xu was handed over to Chinese marine police cruising near the islands.
China announced an air-defense zone in late November covering the disputed islands in the East China Sea and demanded that all aircraft flying in the zone identify themselves to Chinese authorities. Both Japan and the United States refuse to recognize the zone and have sent military aircraft through it without notifying China.